"Children are born with a sense of wonder and an affinity for Nature. Properly cultivated, these values can mature into ecological literacy, and eventually into sustainable patterns of living." - Zenobia Barlow, “Confluence of Streams”
Most children are captivated by watching and helping things grow, making great little helpers in the garden. Fostering a sense of wonder and enjoyment in gardening can lead to a life-long hobby that supports a sustainable lifestyle, healthy eating and greater awareness of the cycles of nature.
Here are five fun activities to get your little helper excited about the garden this year.
1. Read books about gardening together.
Numerous books explore topics related to gardening. Some of our favorites that are ideal for a pre-school or an early elementary school-age audience are The Tales of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth by Mary McKenna Siddals, The Curious Garden by Peter Brown, and Mrs. Sptizer’s Garden by Edith Pattou.
2. Involve your children in garden planning.
Most children are visionaries and enjoy sharing their opinion. Getting buy-in at the beginning can help motivate them later for less desirable tasks, such as weeding. It also helps ensure that the vegetable garden is stocked with veggies they will enjoy eating.
If space allows, themed gardens packed with the veggies for some of your favorite foods can be fun, such as a pizza garden or a salsa patch. If you have some seed catalogs lying around the house, your children can make a collage or garden map using the enclosed photos.
3. Give children their own plot.
For young children, it can be helpful to give them a very small plot. Set them up for success by providing a sunny plot with good soil.
Some of the crops that are most suitable for young gardeners are sunflowers, pumpkins, radishes, snow peas, cherry tomatoes, nasturtiums, carrots, green beans and potatoes, because they are easy to grow and fun to harvest.
When my daughter was two years old, she planted and maintained six pots with sunflowers that were located right next to the rain barrel. She really enjoyed filling the watering can herself and sprinkling the flowers every day or two.
4. Create a photo journal of the garden.
Even if there is still snow on the ground, now is a great time to get started. It can be insightful and fun to document the changes in the garden throughout the course of the year.
5. Start a compost pile.
If you don’t have a compost pile or bin already, now is a great time to get one started. Children may be particularly interested in a worm compost bin, which can be store indoors.
Sarah Lozanova is a mother of two, a holistic parenting coach, and a freelance environmental writer. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and has an MBA in sustainable development.