You’d be surprised how much gardening can teach a child. Get the children out into the yard with you and you’ll be giving them an education that will last a lifetime. It isn’t just about the fruit, veg and plants, they will also get important lessons in maths, science and art. Gardening will also teach them a lot about responsibility as well as consequences. For example; if they stop tending to their garden, what happens? If they are responsible and care for their garden, what happens then?
Getting a child to be involved in the gardening process from the very start until the end can do wonders for their confidence. Imagine the delight on their face when they see the final result of a beautiful garden full of flowering plants or fruit and vegetables.
If the yard is bushy and overgrown to start with it can be tempting to leave the kids out of the process until you’ve cleared it, giving them a blank slate ready to start planting seeds. However, it is actually good to get them involved from the get-go and give them a real sense of ownership and responsibility over the project.
Have your children involved in every step, from the hiring of the skip bin, to the physical work of filling it with old shrubs and junk from the yard. Next, ask them to help you design the new garden concept, and then take them with you when it is time to shop for plants, seeds and tools.
They will feel like such a big part of the process and their confidence, knowledge, responsibility and cooperation will all grow along with the garden. Try not to be too controlling throughout the process, and your child will also learn about taking ownership over a project.
Other ways your children will grow and learn from doing some gardening with you are as follows:
Planting fruit and veggies is the best way to teach your children about food sources and where the food they eat comes from. This is a good opportunity to teach them about the ‘seed to plate’ concept. Which is what they plant is what eventually ends up on their plate. And this doesn’t just mean in the full form such as carrots or beans. Try getting them to plant a specific bunch of ingredients to make one dish so that they understand the concept of different herbs, vegetables or fruits to make up one meal that they enjoy. For example, you could plant basil, garlic and tomatoes and then get them to make bruschetta. Or for more variety, they could do a pizza crop with the tomatoes, basil and garlic, as well as some mushrooms, capsicum and other herbs like oregano.
Your kids will get a thrill out of the entire seed to plate process. They can help plant them, tend to the garden, pick them and then make dinner with them. It may even be the first time you’ve seen your children clean up every morsel from their plate!
An important lesson for children to learn is that all living things have a life cycle. It is a gentle and natural way for them to learn about life from start to finish. Demonstrating the cycle in a plant is easier as the children can see and touch the plants at all different stages.
You can start by showing them a seed, letting them hold it in their hand and see what it feels like. They can plant the seed and soon they’ll see some sprouts coming through. At this stage, you can explain to them about the soft, green baby sprouts and compare the difference once the stem turns hard, brown and woody. If it is a flowering plant they will be delighted to watch the flowers blossom and finally they will get to see new seeds drop, starting the life cycle over again.
If your children are a bit older you can begin to teach them about more in-depth parts of this life cycle such as the important role of the sun and rain during the plants growth.
Make it interesting
Did you know that when fruit is growing you can etch your name into the skin or put artwork on it, which will stay there until you pick it? This can be so much fun for the kids.
It is very simple to do, when the fruit is growing use something sharp, like a paperclip or a nail, to scratch a pattern into the young fruit.
They can draw pictures, a pattern, their name, the date or even a message to a friend! Carve it into the fruit and then you will see their enjoyment as they watch the fruit growing and the message or pattern getting bigger. Keep a record of the changing fruit by taking photos every couple of weeks until it is ripe and ready to pick, complete with your child’s masterpiece engraved into it.