Gardening with kids is a fun way to help them develop qualities and learn skills that will benefit them throughout their lives.
Have you started planting a garden this year yet? We’ve got some little seedlings indoors, and I’m planning to head outside this week with Little Man to plant the garden in earnest. I figure digging into the earth and starting our garden for the year is a good way to celebrate Earth Day this week.
Although, our garden could be a bit of a surprise this year. Little Man helped me plant the indoor starts a month ago or so, but Little Brother found them shortly thereafter and tipped over the whole tray…so we started again. I labeled everything carefully, but not all of the plants coming up are what I thought I planted. Whoops!
Gardening with kids is certainly an adventure, but it’s so worth it to let them be a part of the experience of growing a garden.
In my home growing up, the garden was Daddy’s sanctuary. Every day after work, he would take a stroll through his garden beds (often accompanied by his little girl)…watering here, trimming a plant there.
I spent many Saturday mornings learning the proper depth to plant sugar snap peas, checking for aphids on grape vines, and sneaking cherry tomatoes. My favorite, though, was hunting for worms in the compost heap. I loved how their wiggly little bodies tickled the palm of my hand.
But gardens are about much more than growing plants. Here are 5 essential life lessons I learned through gardening that now I’m passing on to my kids.
Essential Life Lessons Learned in the Garden
Obviously, you can’t plant a seed and have food to eat five minutes later. Gardens are a long-term investment (at least in kid-time). I remember going out to check on the garden every day as a little girl…waiting for the day that I’d see a little green sprout poking up through the soil. Then, more waiting. But the satisfaction of seeing plants sprout where my little hands had sown seeds made all the waiting worth it.
Understanding that good things really do come to those who wait is SO important for kids to learn.
Gardens take consistent, persistent effort. You can’t just wait, after all. You have to water them every day (or at least make sure the sprinklers are working). You have to check for weeds. You have to train vines to go the proper direction. These things require taking responsibility for a job and continuing to do it even on days that you just don’t feel like it.
For the past couple of years, checking on the garden each afternoon has become a great summertime daily routine with my boys. And while I do have to keep a close eye on them, there are lots of jobs even the littlest toddlers can do in the garden. They are in their element in the dirt, after all. Even Little Brother is learning this year about how to pull weeds! Kids will learn that the amount of effort they put into an endeavor will be reflected in the results. As my dad taught me, “You reap what you sow.”
Kids are typically pretty self-absorbed. The world revolves around them and their needs, or so they think. Helping kids find joy in contributing to something that benefits someone else in addition to themselves prepares them to be more generous adults. Last year, Little Man would proudly pick veggies from the garden and bring them inside to be used in dinner that night. He loved the idea that he contributed to the family meal. He also loved giving extra produce to friends and neighbors, which was a great way for him to learn about service. The world is a big place, and growing a garden can help kids learn about contributing to that big world in small ways.
The joy of creating
Humans are meant to create. It’s part of us. There is something amazing about knowing that you planted a little seed, and because you cared for it, it’s now a huge plant. I hope that seeing those little seeds grow will inspire my boys to believe that they can create anything they choose in life: art, music, buildings, books…anything.
I love that when we grow a garden, my kids see the effort it takes to bring the food into being. That’s easy to forget when we just buy everything at the grocery store. We get kind of detached from our food. But when we’ve watched and waited for months to see the food ripen, we appreciate the food so much more.
Plus, Little Man is so much more willing to eat food that he picks from the garden: zucchini, peas, carrots–all sorts of awesome veggies that he otherwise turns his nose up to. I can only HOPE that this holds true for picky Little Brother.
There is an old proverb that says, “When eating fruit, remember the one who planted the tree.” By taking a turn being the planter, I think we come to appreciate all the other “gardeners” around us who provide us with so much.
Not sure how to involve your toddlers in the garden? Here are some of my favorite resources for gardening with kids:
25 Ideas for Gardening with Kids from Tipsaholic
Best Vegetables to Grow with Kids from The Educator’s Spin on It
DIY Watering Can from Milk Jug from One Creative Mommy
Egg Carton Greenhouses from Hazel and Company
I regularly link up here.