April 2013 – Gardening with Children

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Rita's Monthly Gardening Tips,  April 2, 2013

ritaGardening with young children is done for many reasons, but large-scale high- quality production is not usually an objective. Gardening with children is more about the process than the product. Children are naturally curious and will enjoy the chance to spend time with an adult doing this important but fun work. Fun is the important part. Always make it fun. Their attention span may be short, so let them enjoy small tasks while you continue the on-going

work that needs to be done. Be prepared to be flexible in your goals. It may say in the book to plant in straight rows, and your child’s row may be straight—but diagonal to everything else. And who says that marigold seeds can’t be planted in a circle instead?  

Digging in the soil is a fun activity for kids, although—as in the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie—this activity often leads in other directions. You may have planned that you need to add a cartload of compost to the garden bed, but then your child sees a worm, then a butterfly. What started out as one task morphs into a beautiful experience in wildlife appreciation and the delicate balance of the food web. Then come back to the task at hand and explain how adding compost to the soil creates food for the worm families to eat and nutrition for the flowers that will feed the butterflies.

Kids also love to water. Giving young children a small watering can to fill and water plants will give them great joy. But know that they water for joy rather than having a concrete awareness of how much water a plant needs. They often think that watering a plant means pouring water on the plant itself. It’s hard for them to understand that it is the underground part that they can’t see that actually needs the water. Think of the roots of a plant being as large underground as the plant is above ground. Make up for the extra water that the plants may need or let the child know that it is time to share the water with another plant now.

Seed planting is more fun for kids when using big seeds that they can easily handle, such as sunflowers, nasturtiums, squash, cucumber, chard, beans, peas, etc. When choosing which vegetables to grow, start with the ones that you know your child already loves. Then try a new one or two that they may learn to love through the process of growing it. It’s important, as much as possible, to ensure that the children are successful in their gardening endeavors. They are too young to understand that they forgot to water, so their plants died. They will come back looking for that special plant that they helped to start by seed or planted into the ground. Give children increasing responsibilities for the success of their garden as they gain more experience and patience.

Get children excited about gardening by having tools they can easily manage. Most garden centers carry shorter shovels that are not plastic toy shovels. Magnifying glasses make it fun to observe insects and flower patterns. And there is nothing better than to end the evening by snuggling with your little ones and reading the many wonderful picture books available with a gardening theme.

Some of my favorite picture books:

  • Sunflower House by Eve Bunting
  • Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens
  • In the Garden with Dr. Carver by Susan Grigsby
  • The Little Red Hen Grows a Pizza by Philemon Sturges
  • Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert
  • The Gardener by Sarah Stewart
  • The Reason for a Flower by Ruth Heller
  • Jack’s Garden by Henry Cole
  • Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
  • Just about any book by Gail Gibbons

To find books at the Solano County Libraries: Search  SNAP, the Solano Napa And Partners Library Consortium at  snap.lib.ca.us. In the libraries’ search bar, type in: gardening juvenile fiction. Or ask the librarian for suggestions.

Happy gardening! Check back next month for the May Gardening Tip!