Some kids like to play with toys and gadgets, others simply love the outdoors. They are drawn to the garden, they dig and pull-out weeds, and occasionally eat the mud too, but they always manage to pick out a flower or two for mum. Some will even create a patch to plant the pips from the fruit they just ate, and water it expecting Jack’s beanstalk to sprout immediately. These are our special little green thumbs.
As a parent, when you realise that your little one is interested in plants and nature, what better way to keep them occupied than to start gardening with them. Planting a fruit or vegetable garden is not only a great way to ensure you eat organic, but it also provides an exceptional hands-on learning opportunity for the kids. Take the chance to teach them healthy habits and environmental sustainability while reaping the benefits once the produce grows in.
How to get going
Besides having fun and spending time together in the garden, your biggest goal will be to encourage healthy eating. To get started, make sure you have the right tools on hand. The Woolworths catalogue currently has a Discovery Garden collection of pot plants and it also includes kids aprons and bucket hats for $8 each, and a 2 pack gardening tool kit with gloves for $5.
Once you have the accessories, choose 5 seed types or seedlings to narrow down your search with the little ones. Cherry tomatoes are a smart pick, they grow faster than ordinary tomatoes and they also make for a good snack. Lettuce grows pretty fast too and you can pick it more than once, just like spinach. Let each child pick out their seed and let them know they will be responsible for its growth and upkeep. This will surely get them all excited and raring to go.
Responsibility is key
Let the little ones identify where they want the garden to be so that they have a sense of ownership. Garden maintenance requires more than just planting the seeds. The upkeep of watering, weeding and harvesting will help you teach them about responsibility. Also, let them take the lead so that they become more interested in the garden’s outcome. If they are old enough, put them in charge of remembering to water the plants. This is a sure way to instill a feeling of responsibility.
How does the garden grow?
When you have put the seeds in the ground, the kids will start to become curious about how exactly the tomatoes will grow. This is a good opportunity to talk about pollination, how the bees and butterflies help to keep the ecosystem thriving, and why it’s in our interest to protect them so that our plants also grow.
Once the plants have germinated and they’ve started flowering, now is the chance to talk about the plant parts, photosynthesis and soil nutrients, if you have kids who are able to understand the science. When there is fruit, your picky eaters will be more encouraged to eat what they toiled for.
Gardening will get your hands dirty but smart kids and healthy fruit and vegetables are worth it, enjoy the process.