Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Children in the Garden

Preparing for spring planting, I'm trying to find new ways to incorporate child friendly activities for the garden. We started last year's growing season with an Easter basket of spring gardening tools. A friend of mine and I gave our girls seeds, garden gloves, garden shoes, and trowels mixed in with their holiday candy. Every year, another friend of mine uses the holiday to welcome spring by planting trees with her girls. Children arrive with an innate appreciation and curiosity for nature. Now is the time to help it along.

Direct contact with nature allows a child to explore and develop a keen sense of environmentalism without even knowing it. This year, one of our projects is to design fairy houses. We have three large peonies in our backyard and recently learned that the Barbie fairy Elina lives in a peony. We will be designing our houses to place under the peonies in the hope that Elina and her friends decide to move in. We will also be planting a sunflower patch where my daughter and her friends can have a clubhouse. Including friends in the process spreads the excitement. Some of the other four-year-olds have been invited to pick things for our garden too. They will all garden together.

Last year, I made a shaded reading garden for my little bookworm. We bought a special bench and animal statues to place by our brook. My daughter helped pick it appropriate plants for the shade. We learned together about what plants like the type of environment we had prepared for them My daughter also helped plan the vegetable garden and chose the types of veggies she wanted from a catalogue. Tomatoes were not on her list. She refused to eat the ones we bought at the store. I planted three varieties so she could learn the difference between fresh tomatoes and store bought. Tomatoes are now one of her favorite foods. The bonus about involving kids in planting food is that they learn from where their food comes, which helps them make more informed choices in the kitchen.

The key to involving kids in the gardening process is allowing them full participation. Activities from choosing plants to picking the harvest awakens a child's curiosity and makes them feel grownup. Another activity we do together is picture taking. My daughter and I love spring and summer nature walks. Last year I bought her a Fisher Price camera that she can drop without worry. We will walk in the neighborhood to discover wildflowers growing on the side of the road with cameras in hand. The camera encourages curiosity and discovery by making us look closer at the world around us. While seeking good pictures, we also find good subjects - bees on flowers, tiny mushrooms in swampy areas, birds nests in trees.

Any more ideas for involving kids in this process are welcome! Please spread the spring planting fever!


TopVeg said...

So good to see a post about children in the garden. It is a wonderful activity fo young people


Thank you topveg. The best memories of my own childhood are from the garden. I think that every child should have the opportunity to play in a garden. I discovered (and still discover) so many things about the world and myself while exploring nature in my own backyard.