My kids are pretty picky eaters. They weren’t always that way though. There was a time when Ottergirl was a toddler, that she and Rocketboy would get into the garden and eat all my tomatoes before I could even harvest them. It’d become a backyard tradition for them: go out to play, snack on some fresh tomatoes, keep playing. I’d come out later to pick a few for dinner and would discover that my plants would be distressingly bare! The kids think it’s funny now, as they don’t care for tomatoes quite as much as they did then, and are a little more careful to wash things off before eating them. Nowadays it’s the strawberries that sometimes disappear straight from the garden rather than tomatoes. If you ever needed a reason to support organic gardening, this might be it. LOL… though a little dirt never hurt, right?
An extra set of helping hands in the garden is always nice, even if they are teeny-tiny hands. Engaging children in gardening at a young age helps foster their curiosity for nature and provides wonderful bonding time, creates lasting memories, not to mention a love for fresh produce. Ottergirl has always been my nature-lover. For a long time she called herself a “nature girl,” and when she was younger even wanted to be a gardener when she grew up. (It’s animal training and marine biology these days, but we’ll talk about that another time!)
Here are some tips for sharing a love of gardening with kids:
Quickly growing plants can keep the attention of toddlers longer than plants that take longer to produce. Some of these are radishes, lettuce, carrots, beets, and herbs. These are cooler weather plants as well, so getting them in the ground early will ensure they are ready to harvest before the hot summer heat deadens any real enthusiasm for planting and nurturing!
Plants with bigger seeds that little fingers can more easily handle are good for kids. Sunflowers are awesome for this, and they are fun and quick growing. It’s pretty exciting to see the amazement in their little eyes when they realize that seed they’ve planted is quickly growing into a plant taller than they are! Birds love Sunflowers as well, so it’s an added bonus to plant some and get some birdwatching in at the same time! Other big seeded plants are beans, peas, and pumpkins, though these will take the full growing season to harvest.
Caring for a garden teaches responsibility as well. If the garden bed isn’t weeded or watered, plants will shrivel, get choked out, and the rewards of harvest will be missed out on!
Harvesting is the reward! Kids won’t often appreciate a random vegetable that shows up on their dinner plate, but knowing that the veggie is a friend that they’ve helped cultivate from a tiny seedling sometimes helps make it a little more palatable. 😉 Seeing the full circle from seed to the plate first hand is an awesome educational experience.
Have you introduced your little ones to gardening? What garden memories does your family share?
Check out these other posts: