Calling all parents and grandparents: Here are some tips and projects to connect children to the wonderful world of plants.
Tip No. 1
If you want your children to enjoy gardening, this is the most important tip. Give them lots of praise, no negatives. Everyone loves praise — especially kids! Remember there are no failures, only laughable, learning experiences. An “oops” is a great way to talk about an “oops” of your own. It’s OK to exaggerate your own snafu a bit.
Tip No. 2
Give your kids a garden space of their own. This can be a part of your vegetable garden or a separate little plot. Preschoolers and toddlers do best with a little plot of their very own. They love just digging and aren’t old enough to tell a weed from a new plant. Older children will enjoy working alongside you in your veggie or flower garden. Make sure access to your veggies is easy; make paths wide enough for young feet. It’s great to let your kids help you in your garden but nothing beats, “It’s mine!”
Tip No. 3
Involve your kids from the very beginning. They get to choose the tomatoes or the squash plant. They pick the recipe. Serve a Hubbard squash for dinner. Scoop out the seeds and let your kids wash them and set them out to dry. They get their own seeds ready and get to eat that squash with lots of yummy butter.
Tip No. 4
Add more fun by trying a garden project or two.
Make a tire garden. An old tire, some paint, soil, plants and your child’s imagination can become a mini vegetable garden. That same free tire can become a succulent dinosaur garden or a fairy garden. Painting the tires makes for even more fun. There are classes, supplies and ideas at your local garden center.
Grow your own potato barrel. Start with some sprouted potatoes, a large old trash can, soil and some time. Make lots of holes in the bottom and the sides. Begin with a foot of soil, bury the potatoes and as they grow, keep adding more soil but always leave some green growth above the soil. When you get close to the top and your potatoes bloom, your kids can start to dig for their very own first little potatoes. This usually takes about two months so be patient.
Watch some lettuce grow! Cut the bottom off of a head of romaine lettuce, leaving about 1 inch or so. Suspend it with toothpicks in a glass container so the base is in water. Soon, new little lettuce leaves will start to grow. At the same time, plant other kinds of leaf lettuce in the garden and compare. This also works with a pineapple top or a celery bottom.
Make some seed strips to have ready for easy planting. All you need are some seeds, toilet paper and some flour paste.
Root your own succulents. Children can watch the roots grow if you use toothpicks to set your succulent cutting in an empty pot.
Grow plants that live on air. Tillandsia air plants only need a branch of some kind and the very occasional mist of water.
Tip No. 5
Keep the gardening tasks small, easy and with quick results.
Gardening with your kids will grow vegetables to eat but most of all it will grow lasting memories. What better crop could there be?