There are subtle, but important differences between gardening with kids and gardening for kids. Gardening with kids is all about maximizing growth and minimizing collateral damage, while little ones tramp about, learn to love dirt and demand snacks. Gardening for kids, on the other hand, is about designing and executing a garden that appeals to small people’s sensibilities. In both cases, we’re seeking to enrich our children’s lives with an appreciation for food, agriculture and the earth while providing them an important life skill. The chance of a successful outcome increases exponentially when we prioritize gardening for kids, not just with them!
Veggies for Kids
Plant what you eat. Moreover, plant what your kids eat. With limited time and limited resources, parents of young children will maximize gardening enjoyment by concentrating on sure pleasers. There is a place in this discussion for encouraging experimentation and it’s absolutely true that children are more likely to step outside of their food comfort zone if they’ve grown it themselves, but there is nothing like a garden full of squash, carefully tended throughout the summer, that nobody wants to eat come harvest time. To that end, plant a lot of what you know the kids will love!
Keep it Simple
Yes, it would be amazing to actually produce melons in my home garden here in Canada. And yes, it can be done. But I haven’t succeeded in doing so, despite three years of trying. That’s because they take a lot of love, and most of my love is dedicated to making yummy dinners, nursing the baby, reading great books, pretending to be a fairy and getting to school on time! Simple gardens that flourish with minimal time and effort are more likely to please than fancy, finicky gardens requiring time and energy you just don’t have with kids underfoot.
Engage Their Senses
Carrots come in a rainbow of colors. Beets can have Zebra stripes. Herbs can taste like licorice. Sunflowers can practically reach the sky and tomatoes come in every shape and size. Foster children's imagination by engaging their senses in the garden.A simple garden is by no means restrictive to a boring garden. To locate fun varieties of plants for your climate purchase from a seed shop or nursery, instead of a box-hardware or department store’s gardening section. Here on the West Coast, I love West Coast Seeds.
Love the Critters
Kids delight in small critters! Encourage their participation in the garden by building a mason bee home, setting up a bee house, making a worm jar or our family favorite – creating a snail home! The pollinators and the kids will thank you for your efforts. Imaginary critters need homes too – a fairy garden offers endless possibilities and is sure to
delight the smallest gardeners in your house all season long.
Remember the Sweet Stuff
Imagine the delight the first time your children see an apple on their own tree. Or the sweet pleasure of sending them to the garden, cute bucket in tow, to fill up on blueberries, strawberries or raspberries. Depending on climate, simple home gardens can accommodate all sorts of fruit production with relative ease. And there is nothing that the kids like better than growing, and eating, the sweet stuff.
While you might be tempted to rush through sowing the lettuce and move onto the next item on the never ending to-do list, taking a few moments to consider a creative presentation might be the key to getting little one’s engaged. Consider, for example, planting a rainbow of lettuce using a variety of colors. While this may not conform to biodynamic gardening principles, the children’s delight when a rainbow grows in the garden is well worth the inconsequential sacrifice to yield. Because that’s what it’s all about – delighting in the garden.