How do you get your kids interested in gardening? For older kids and teens, you may have to tie the gardening tasks, such as mowing the lawn, picking weeds, or raking up leaves, to a salary, although not necessarily their allowance. But that has more to do with chores, and not gardening as a hobby. This article is about really getting your kids interested in gardening.
Why get your kids interested in gardening in the first place? One good reason is so that if you like gardening, then it will keep your kids occupied while you work in the garden and allow you to spend more time together. It is also a fun activity for most kids, gets them outside, teaches them about nature, and it is a good way to get them interested in a new hobby.
Kids like to imitate adults, especially their parents, so one way to get your kids interested in gardening is to get them some kid size gardening tools to match the ones you use. Good suggestions are a small wheelbarrow, water bucket, shovel, rake, gloves, etc.
While you can, if your child develops an interest in gardening, eventually move towards having a formal kids' garden that your child maintains, it is probably best to just stick to the basics when you start out.
One of those basics, and something most kids love to do, is digging and playing in dirt. While you will likely not want your kids digging holes in your lawn or in established areas of the garden, you can let them dig in new beds before you have planted anything. Or, if possible, set aside a part of the garden that is just for your child and where he can dig or do whatever he wants.
Another basic part of gardening, and which children enjoy, is planting seeds. This will keep your child occupied for weeks and months as you watch the seeds grow. It also doesn't require a lot of work or preparation. A styrofoam cup or egg carton, some soil and a packet of seeds are all you need.
Which seed should you start with? My personal favorite is the sunflower. It is a fun and interesting flower, kids can eat the seeds (although you will have to dry, prepare and roast them first), and it is very fast growing. Once your sunflower begins growing, your kids can use a ruler or tape measure to chart its progress. They may also enjoy drawing or painting a picture of the growing or mature sunflower.
Other fun projects include planting seeds to attract butterflies (daisies, zinnias, petunias, etc) or ladybugs (Blue Cornflower, Fennel, etc).
Speaking of bugs, many kids like bugs, especially caterpillar, worms and ladybugs. Letting your child explore your garden and find bugs can be a fun activity in the garden.
Once your kids learn to like being in the garden, you can begin some more formal activities, including letting them pick and plant some plants of their own. Having a separate part of the garden set aside especially for them is ideal, but if that isn't possible, letting them plant in containers can also be fun.
Other fun activities can include letting your kids:
- decorate and design labels for the plants in your garden
- help harvest vegetables or cut flowers
- build and decorate a scarecrow for your garden
- visit your local botanical gardens
What if your kids begin to lose interest in their garden or plants? It is probably best not to force them to maintain their garden or make it a chore. Instead, just try to rekindle their interest. Tell them how their sunflower has really grown this week and how you are going to go measure it. Or get excited about a new flower that is blooming.
And be sure to be safe. Younger children shouldn't handle sharp gardening tools. Also keep insecticides and other chemicals out of reach, or consider taking up organic gardening.