12 May Family Gardening
Written By Marianne Binetti
Getting Your Kids to Dig in
Kids just wanna have fun! Make gardening a way to encourage outdoor play with these age appropriate ideas:
Toddlers and Pre-schoolers
Add the element of water and tools and your little ones will love playing in the garden. Young children love repetition so to prevent them from over-watering, fill a bucket with water and then give the kids a leaky vessel to dip into the bucket and then hold over the plants. A paper cup with a few small holes punched into the bottom will work fine. Let your toddler help water with a hose by turning the water flow down so that just a trickle comes out. Making mud pies also counts as gardening especially if you encourage decorating their creations with dandelion blossoms. Your goal is just to encourage this age to enjoy playing outdoors in the dirt (and to keep them busy so you can get something done). (Note: Never leave young children alone with water and don’t use a large container – a full bucket of water can be a safety hazard.)
Even a kindergartener can plant seeds in their own pot or plot. Show them how small seeds should be pressed down into the soil or barely covered (lettuce, kale, carrots) while larger seeds of beans, peas and nasturtiums can be poked into the soil with a finger. Encourage them to loosen the soil first using tools of their choice including forks from the kitchen, toy dump trucks or hand trowels.
Tip: Challenge young ones to dig a hole as deep as they can, removing rocks as they go. Give them tools to measure the depth of the hole. You can always fill in the hole later or use it to plant a tree.
The “Backyard Olympics” is one way to get the weeding done. The object is to create teams or compete with the clock. Use a stop watch see how many weeds can be placed into the bucket in only 60 seconds. Then see who can dig out the dandelion with the largest root (Use a very dull bread knife if you don’t have a dandelion weeding tool) . Set up a “find 10 of these weeds” scavenger hunt with prizes for all! Keep the weeding times short, join in with enthusiasm and get creative with the rewards.
After some safety lessons let teens experience using mowers, pruning saws and long-reach pole pruners. Teens may prefer learning from YouTube rather than listening to their parents so consider watching “how to” videos together beginning. A teen can take pride learning how to prune the fruit trees or the best way to reshape a Japanese maple. They may even allow you to share their accomplishment with family members on social media.
There’s plenty to do right in your own backyard, so get outside and keep growing!
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