Sunday, April 20, 2008

More Kids' Garden Activities

Raking in the yard is fun for a short spell. Digging in newly dug gardens can be fun too, but how can we really engage our kids in garden activities? Last month, I discussed starting seeds, nature visualization, books and photography as ways to get kids more engaged. I also discussed fairy houses a few days ago. The key is to give our children hands-on activities that feel like their own. You can be your child's helper and give her a sense of responsibility. Don't expect the act of filling the wheelbarrow with your trimmings from the forsythia bush to turn your child on to nature.

Check out The Great Sunflower Project the project sends your free sunflowers to plant. Your family's assignment is to count the bees that visit your sunflowers after they've grown. Because of the apparent decline in the bee population, the project seeks to understand the challenges that bees face and how we can help them. This is a great learning opportunity and what child doesn't love sunflowers?

We have also begun a garden diary where we draw pictures of what we are doing in the garden and write about them. The diary can include photographs. It can be detailed or loose. with older kids you can check out the changes in the garden every day, record the weather, record how much things have grown and what new creatures you find. With younger children, like mine, you can make entries less often so the changes are more obvious and the task doesn't becoem boring. We went from recording snow in March, to noting our raking last week, and today we will note a new garden we have dug.

Give your child a spot all his own. My daughter loves to graze through the vegetable patch. She remarked the other day how she remembers chomping on onions last year. So, I raked a spot near her playset and we planted her very own patch of onions. This way, when she gets a little munchy on the swing she can hop off and have an onion break! (I've also planted berries nearby, so she gets a little variety in her diet.) She was so exited about the idea that she "planted" trees next to her garden, taking little sticks, poking them in the ground, hanging last year's dead leaves on them, and claiming the spot as her own.

The idea of our own space also spread to relaxation. This year I cleaned out under a tall pine. I trimmed low branches and raked to make a little hideaway. I placed small chairs under the tree near the driveway where my daughter can wait for daddy to come home in the evening. I'm encouraging her to spread blankets and bring favored outdoor toys to her new spot. Her "old" spot is on the other side of the house. A hideaway shade garden where she can sit and read out of the sun on a hot summer day. We also placed her very own bird feeder near here, so she could relax by watching them and listening to bird songs.

If you make children space in the garden, they will take to it like bees on sunflowers. Help them feel the garden magic. Recognize that kids need their own garden spaces and activities, Just sharing yours may not be enough for them to grow an interest in gardening.


Esther Montgomery said...

When we were children, my brother and I were given small patches of ground in which to garden. (Small because our garden was small.)

I grew plants.

My brother dug a hole.

However many times my father exhorted him to grow something -it made no difference. With his patch of earth, my brother simply wanted to dig - a hole.

Then, in a rare spirit of co-operation, we decided he would grow plants while they were small (a nursery) and pass them on to me once they had grown a bit (to the 'adultery').

We took my mother into the garden and explained the new system.

I remember the expression on my mother's face as she suggested 'adultery' was not the best name for my patch of ground!


Amy said...

You've shared many wonderful ideas here. We're planning to build a small raised bed for each of my three children to grow some easy veggies. We're also hoping to grow a sundflower playhouse like the plans laid out in the book "Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots".