One of the greatest gifts we as gardeners can give is sharing what we love with those we love. Who better to share our love, experience and garden wisdom with than our little ones? Children are such natural gardeners: curious, full of wonder, busy and always ready to help. We can promote health, learning, respect for nature and a chance to interact with the environment while providing a safe, fun, stimulating and sensory experience.
Children of all ages enjoy and benefit from time in the garden. Even at a very early age, they are ready for some tasks. The enthusiasm of little gardeners is contagious, their questions keep you sharp, the hands-on learning is so unique and the one-on-one lessons you provide promote responsibility, patience, health, life skills and character.
As children experience and learn in the garden, they will let you know what they love and do well there. My first memories are of time spent in the garden with my grandmother filling my apron with Tommy Toes, while she gathered dinner. To my daughter, watering and planting seeds were the prize jobs, but exploring smells and sneaking tomatoes were a close second. Her siblings loved harvesting the miracles they brought forth. My grandson knew his job the moment he arrived in the garden: pick and eat everything red!
Gardening with older children in a school setting offers many opportunities for students to teach each other, correlate with classroom curriculum, learn how to grow their own, understand their roles and responsibilities in successful gardening, develop good nutritional habits and take control of their own health. While school gardens provide venues for hands-on experiences, entrepreneurial skills, relationship and team building, responsibility and leadership skills, they are not accessible to all children. Taking on that job at home can provide the same instruction, strengthen skills and promote family values and interaction as well.
Time spent with kids in the garden allows you both new experiences and new memories. Children are empowered in the garden in many ways: good eating habits, building relationships, problem-solving, control of their own health, physical activity, self- and community-sustaining skills. Take advantage of teaching and learning opportunities, encourage exploration, experimentation, playing and eating. And don’t forget: they are outside and active!
Make your time gardening with children special, interesting and fun. Let children help in planning, preparing, planting, caring and harvesting your garden. Teach them the basics: soil, seeds, food, pollinators and all that is nature.
Your goal to be productive in the garden on these days may not be realistic, because your triumphs will not be what you expected. Instead, you may end up on a lizard hunt or digging for worms or counting seeds in a sunflower head.
Have fun. Be patient. Teach. Children learn in so many ways. Make every moment count in teaching kids as they will constantly reward you with reminders of how you came to love your garden. Let the children lead you into your new adventures in gardening.
Pamela Van Hoozer is a Master Gardener Volunteer with Cooperative Extension. For questions about gardening and landscaping in Nevada, contact a Master Gardener at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-336-0265, or visit www.growyourownnevada.com.