by Laurel Thompson
Gardening is a great way to get the kids outside and learn lifelong skills. It takes patience, organization, and lots of attention to create a fruitful garden, and summer break is the perfect time to teach your little one these lessons. Help them get their hands dirty with these kids’ gardening tips:
GET THE RIGHT SIZED TOOLS
Children have tiny hands, so they need tiny gardening tools. Look for a child-size hand rake, hand shovel, a small hoe, a watering can, and a pair of kids’ gardening gloves so they can get excited about having tools of their very own. Store their tools with your other gardening supplies, and always have them put their tools away (just like their toys) when they aren’t being used.
Sowing seeds is a great way for kids to learn about the life cycle of plants. Bring your child to a local nursery and have them choose a variety of seeds to start in your garden (it’s not too late to start certain seeds for a fall crop), or wait until early spring and help them start seeds indoors. Teach your child about seed depth and spacing, and have them label their seed rows so they know where to water. Pro tip: have them identify any bugs they come across while planting!
WEED & WATER
If there’s one thing that will teach your child patience, it’s gardening. Whether they’re watching a green tomato ripen or waiting for their seeds to germinate, they’ll have plenty of time to water, weed, and tend to their plants. Show them which plants are weeds and help them pull the entire root, making sure to wear gloves so they don’t get poked by thistles.
Bring your child along every time you water so they can help care for their plants and see how much they’ve grown. Have them water at the base of each plant (not on top of the leaves) and explain how the soil absorbs it for the roots to drink it up. Make daily watering a part of your morning and/or evening routine, and soon they’ll be the one reminding you when it’s time to water.
HARVEST, COOK & EAT
When the day finally comes to harvest your crop, have your child join you with a basket and some gardening scissors. Show them where to cut squash and cucumbers off the vine, or have them hand-pick tomatoes, peppers, and strawberries. Root vegetables are especially fun for kids to pull, since it’s always a big surprise.
Once you have your harvest, come up with some easy recipes to make together. Cucumbers and tomatoes make a great Mediterranean salad, and squash are delicious in a stir-fry. Chop up your peppers for a fresh, mild salsa, or bake some zucchini bread in a loaf or pour the batter into child-sized muffin tins.
Enjoying the fruits of their labor is the greatest reward for your child’s hard work in the garden. It also gets them interested in cooking, which opens the doors for all kinds of fun learning opportunities to embark upon this summer. Happy eating!
Originally published on June 29th, 2022.