If you’ve ever tried gardening with a young child, you understand why it may not always be described as “enjoyable.” I can’t imagine what must go through their little heads when they see all that dirt to play with! We see hard work and beauty to behold; they see their next trail of destruction!
Gardening with your kid(s) doesn’t have to be stressful though. Following these five steps may just put you both in the right frame of mind to garden peacefully together.
Make gardening a personal experience for your child by providing them with their own space. Photo By Jamie Lamb.
1. Start with a Book. Part of the process of having your child garden with you is getting them excited about it and understanding why we do it. You can easily explain all this through reading to them. When your child begins to see the connection between their books and the green things sprouting outside, it makes more sense to them. “Up, Down and Around” by Katherine Ayers and “Jo MacDonald Had a Garden” by Mary Quatellbaum were two books that my child enjoyed and helped her connect the dots between gardening and her food supply. If you need more examples, head over to my blog for a listing on gardening books for kids.
Start by reading a book about gardening. Photo By Jamie Lamb.
2. Parents Prepare. I can’t emphasize this one enough. If you’re trying to figure out a task and then try gathering tools, pots, soil and seeds all while wrangling your tot and trying to keep his/her hands out of everything before starting, you’re bound to get frustrated quickly. Plan out specific projects or tasks you’ll be doing ahead of time. Have a lot to do? Consider mapping out a plot of land just for your child. Having his/her own large pot or plot of earth will give them the independence to explore, create and maybe even destroy. But it’s theirs so it won’t matter what happens to it!
3. Purchase Kid-Friendly Tools. Your plants will not survive with a kid wielding an adult-sized hoe. That giant “sword” is just waiting to puncture the heart of your zucchini plant! Invest in equipment that your kids can easily use and you’ll save your plants from an early death. Kid gardening gloves, miniature shovels and spades, as well as a squirt bottle for watering are all good ideas to get you started.
Provide your child with child-sized garden tools. Photo By Jamie Lamb.
4. Lay Out the Expectations First. Explaining the process of your tasks up front and setting clear expectations of what is allowed—and not allowed—is a sure-fire way to set things off on the right foot. If you just tell a child you’ll be planting seeds today, you’re bound to suddenly see shovels full of dirt and seeds being strewn all over the yard and in the air. If you can simply instruct step by step and explain that ripping out carrot tops is not acceptable, you’ve set the boundaries that kids ultimately want and need.
5. Chill Out. No not your kid—I’m talking to you. This is a hard one for me personally to remember sometimes. We put so much effort into our gardens that sometimes we forget how much fun it can really be. Take the time to see it through your kid’s eyes and don’t forget a garden isn’t complete without a few mud pies. Remember that not every cherry tomato would have survived anyways. So if they become victims to a child gardening, leave it be. Each year will get easier and your child will learn to love what you love.
Jamie Lamb resides in beautiful Central Pennsylvania. An avid gardener for the past five years, she’s passionate about our food supply and believes anyone can garden. To follow her quirky take on expanding her families gardening footprint all with a toddler in tow, visit her blog, They Call Me A Hippie.