You may be looking into growing more of your own food and living a more sustainable life now or in the future for some security. If you have a family, it can become even more important. Here are some ideas on how to garden with kids, even the littlest ones.
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Gardening with children
All children have an innate curiosity which lends itself to being eager gardeners. They love learning how it is the seed of their apples turns into a tree and why earthworms are friends.
There is a lot they can help with depending on their age. There are tips for including children too young to assist in any way. For the whole family, gardening is a good way to bond, get outdoors, grow food and learn about nature.
Many homesteading families include assisting in the garden as part of homeschooling and teaching. We do not homeschool, but all of children are involved in helping out in different ways, to the best of their ability for their age.
Babies (0-12 months)
In reality, children this young cannot truly help as they’re much to young to do anything but they’re little sponges. By 6-8 moths they can be sitting somewhere safe at hand to watch. I find wearing children this young to be even better.
I use a soft sided carrier and can move the baby to the back. If they’re over 6 months old they can face forward and watch you garden as you are doing it. Keep in mind that a lot of bending and tilting forward can put the baby in a weird position so use caution.
This is an awesome indoor/outdoor playpen you can set up as well if you need to place them somewhere to garden. It is lightweight and has a carrier for you to move around easily.
Toddlers (1-3 years)
At just a year old, toddlers can move dirt with their hands and generally play in the garden but are not steady. At about a year or so, I still wear my children. After they’re big enough, I usually get kids toy garden tools and will let them pretend to plant anything extra I have around, like loofah seeds, beans from the store, even apple seeds from your apple.
Around the age of 2 and a half, my middle son took on making his own “garden”. Over the past 2 years, he’s thrown every kind of dirt, grass, weeds, seeds, mud, soil, leaves, just everything into an old beat up trash can. I encouraged him to include anything he wanted. He mixes it like a cauldron and when he was younger he would say he was “cooking”.
Now it is blossoming with many different plants. Squash, tomatoes, oak seedlings, another kind of squash, peppers, etc. I was completely hands off for his little project and it actually produced real plants that we may harvest from. But even if we don’t, the learning and growing are all his.
Young children (4-7 years)
During this time, they become helpful and very adept at gardening. Between 3 and 4, many children can handle basic instructions on wear to place seeds and how to dig the holes. They can also take out kitchen scraps to the compost and gently harvest things that are easy to pick.
Set them up for success. Little kids can be great with making small holes in a raised bed or in the ground. To help them, plant big seeds that are easy to see such as most squashes, mammoth sunflowers, beans and peas. Small fingers can poke holes and drop the larger seeds into them pretty easily.
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During this age period that I would give them a designated garden area. A raised bed or a cleared patch that is all theirs. You can plan, use math and art to help your 6 or 7 year old come up with their own garden. You can even let them plant whatever together and see how well it goes.
This is also a good time to start a kid in 4-H club, scouts or any youth organization that encourages gardening and self sufficiency. If you live in an urban area, there are community gardens you can look into that network, teach and have options for children.
Older children (8-12 years)
At these ages, you can definitely expect actual work in the garden and much more help in the heavy lifting department. If you need to open soil bags, turn compost, wheel barrow leaves, mow, dig rows, etc. You can have an older child help with theses tasks.
It is important to always assess the child’s abilities and attention to detail. For anything involving machinery, such as power tools, lawn mower and weed eater, you’ll want to be there to supervise and may have to wait until your kid is a teenager. Some children will naturally be appropriately cautious and pay attention, while others will not. Be sure to gauge where your child is at in this area.
This is a great age period to have all their own garden, planned and able to buy seeds or seedlings with money either earned or as part of learning experience. They can also assist in having their own perennial plants such as blueberry bushes or small fruit trees. Similar to having their own pet, making sure the job gets done is the most important part of learning the independence of this stage.
At this age, children are very self sufficient and might only need minimal instruction but their lifestyle and schedule may be different. Many children this age are very busy with friends, activities and school. If this is their first foray into gardening, you may have to start small as you would with younger children. However, if they are experienced, there are some options.
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If they are entrepreneurial, using their experience in the garden can lead to making money off of the goods they grow. Including starting seedlings, add value to foods such as canning, making jam, etc. If available, hopefully they can be involved in a 4-H club, the local Master Gardener’s program or earn college credits through other online resources.
If you can help your children learn to appreciate and enjoy gardening, this life long pursuit can bring many different bounties to their table and yours. A flourishing and beautiful garden is possible even with very young children and all the way up to young adults. Knowing where your food comes from and learning about the wonders a wonderful garden are vital and might even be a necessity in times of need.
Share your gardening with children tips. Please leave a comment!
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