Between our family garden coach sessions and our lovely garden at St. Paul’s school, we have the great joy and privilege to help introduce a lot of children to gardening. Part of the reason we do what we do is to change the culture around eating, gardening, and living sustainably. Teaching children to find vegetables delicious creates a generation that supports local farms and promotes healthy eating. Teaching children to find bugs fascinating rather than gross creates a generation that celebrates biodiversity in their yards rather than squashing it. Teaching children to treasure habitats creates a generation of native plant advocates.
Not only do we consider education (of both children and adults alike) a huge part of our mission, working with kids can just be so darn fun. They’re open to discovery, they ask some of the best questions, and they really test our knowledge and communication abilities.
That being said, we know it isn’t always easy getting your garden bed weeded while making sure the kids are happy, safe, and engaged. Here are some tips we’ve found useful for gardening with kids!
Outline clear rules - To avoid the frustration of trampled arugula or snapped tomato stems, set clear rules and expectations about where is safe to walk and what is safe to touch. Use different mulches for the rows and beds of your garden to make the walkways extra clear.
Give ownership - Assign kids their own tasks to complete or plants to care for. Watching their own sunflower grow tall and bloom after daily watering will be rewarding and will teach children not only about plant growth but about responsibility!
Short but focused tasks - Different kids have different attention spans. Instead of asking children to seed four straight lines of perfectly spaced beets, let them broadcast wildflower seeds in an empty part of the garden. Keep tasks short, clear, and focused, and have a checklist of other tasks to fall back on when your garden helper loses interest.
Balance work and play - Although you may have 5 pressing garden tasks that you expect to finish today, your kids may have other plans. Make garden chores into games or reward hard work with play. One great example of this we see is how eager the students at St. Paul’s School are to weed as long as they get to feed the weeds to the chickens!
Enjoy garden snacks - This one may seem obvious, but introduce your kids to the joys of eating garden fresh food. Make sure to plant kid friendly treats around the garden that are easy to pick and eat on the spot. Some of our favorites are peas, strawberries, raspberries, carrots, and cherry tomatoes.
What are your favorite tips for gardening with kids?