How to Keep Kids Engaged with gardening
Whether its houseplants or a garden bed, children learn a lot when they tend to a growing thing. Kids not only enjoy but also have a natural inclination to nurture living things. This is also a reason they are naturally drawn towards pets. Gardening can be a therapeutic to people of all ages but children in particular benefit a lot from the multi-sensorial education it offers. It develops many new skills in children including:
- Self Confidence: Taking ownership and achieving their goals
- Responsibility: Following a schedule for watering and fertilizer etc.
- Empathy: Taking care of the plants
- Gross and Fine Motor Skills: Physical activities involved in gardening
- Creativity: Ways of growing food in their designated garden area
- Team Work: Sharing work with parents and sibling
- Nutrition: learning how food is grown
In addition, it also teaches children delayed gratification. It’s a good idea to have them involved from the plating of seed step so they can witness the plant grow. Let them take care of it over a period of time and see how it bears flowers and fruits only after it lives a certain amount of time.
From toddlers, preschoolers to older kids, children can be involved in gardening at any age. Toddlers can help in watering the plants, Preschoolers can water the plants, mist the leaves with a sprayer or clean dusty plants with a sponge and pick the dried leaves. Older kids can help in potting and repotting, maintaining fertiliser calendar and de-weeding etc.
Soil has healthy bacteria and viruses that are known to build the immune system of growing kids. Working with soil id also known to have many therapeutic benefits such as reducing anxiety and stress.
Tips to keep them interested
Ownership: In a garden bed, you can reserve a small section (3*3) for your child giving them the independent of what to grow. This allows them to experiment with gardening without doing any damage to other plants in the garden. If it’s a balcony garden, you can let them have their own pots with their name stickers. They could also pot their own plants for their room.
Accessibility and Safety: Make sure that the tools are child friendly. Their tiny hands might not be able to work with large size gardening tools.
Selection of plants: Do include them in the plants selection. Plants with large seeds are easier for them to work with. Pumpkin seeds, peas and Sunflower seeds is a good example. Children have less patience and it makes it hard for them to wait to for the plant to grow and see results. While starting out, use seeds that grow faster. Beans, tomato and herbs grow quickly and can be used initially to get them used to the process.
It’s also a good idea to include the sensory learning through the plants. Incorporate range of plants with bright colored flowers, textures leaves, strong smell to get their interest going.
- Sight: Sunflower, Marigold and Pansies
- Smell: Jasmine, Lavender and mint etc
- Sound: Bamboo
- Taste: Herbs such as basil, mint, coriander etc
- Touch: Mimosa Pudica, Bottle Brush, Antirrhinum and Snapdragons etc
Make it fun: Make sure that you don’t miss out the fun part of gardening while ensuring they understand the science. Have the younger children dig the dirt and make mud pies. Follow a theme and help them add accessories. Take them on a trip to local nurseries and botanical gardens for inspiration.
The one thing that younger kids love doing is watering the plants and this overenthusiasm can be responsible for killing more plants specially the plants in pots. Teach children how to test if the soil is wet and watering the plant only if its try. If the soil is sticky, the plant doesn’t need water.
For making it easy, use the word PLANTS as an acronym to help them remember what plants need
T: Thirst (Water)
If you have not done so, start by taking kids to the the grocery or vegetable store and showing them different fruits and vegetables. Also involve them in simple cooking processes to spark the interest in what they would like to grow in their own mini garden.
Here is a list of activities that can be selected based on a child’s age:
- Mixing soil
- Adding fertilizer
- Replanting and re-potting
- Composting and recycling
- Gathering dried leaves, dried flowers and seeds
- Watering the garden
- Picking flowers
Add watering the plants in the daily chores for your child and let them own that activity with/ without assistance based on their age.
Here are some of our favorite books about plants that is sure to raise interest in gardening for kids:
- The Tiny Seed, by Eric Carle
- Minibeasts: Earthworms by Barrie Watts
- How a Seed Grows by Helene J. Jordan
- If you Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson
- One Bean by Anne Rockwell
- The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein