Our organic farmer friends in Costa Rica, posted a video on their Facebook page a few days ago and frankly, it inspired me. It was video of their 4-year-old taking part in the harvest and putting the family’s fresh picked grapefruit in the wheelbarrow. It’s such a beautiful thing to be able to involve your children in a harvest.
I thought about our situation here in Costa Rica and how lucky we were to have our 3 and 5 year old boys so active in the garden. As they grow, they seem more and more cognizant from where our food actually comes. They get excited when we go out the garden and walk around picking and eating leave and fruits like they’re in a candy store. The constant requests are: “Daddy can I plant something, or Daddy what can I water; where can I dig?” These requests truly warm my heart, so I thought I’d put together some of the ways we can be sure to involve our kids in gardening.
6 Tips To Get Your Kids Gardening:
1. Give Them Responsibility
Under a watchful eye, give your kids gardening tasks such as watering plants, picking fruit, or feeding animals. Let them take responsibility for a plant that they propagated. Take pictures and track the fruits of their labor. If there’s any task that needs done daily and it’s within the capability of your child, let them do it.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned with my young ones, is to never underestimate their potential. We’ve recently tasked our five year old with feeding tilapia in the aquaponics system twice a day. He knows the fish and plants can’t survive without his work and he takes care of them every morning before school. When friends come to visit, he beams with pride while explaining his important job.
2. Grow Plants That Will Pique Their Interest
Grow plants that grow fast and are unique. A young child could easily get bored with a rosemary plant, cactus, or carrots; however, plants like big sunflowers are a guaranteed hit. They grow fast and make prolific plants. Melons and squash are also fun because the initial spouting time is just a few days and the growth is rapid. Your children can even sprout them in their room and then transplant them when ready.
If you’re living in the tropics, one of our kids’ favorite fruit is papaya. We plant them from seeds we collect from our morning breakfast fruit and grow them in a paint bucket or pot until they get good and strong for transplant. Kids go crazy for papaya and the plants grow incredibly fast.
3. Make Them Part of the Team
When you’re out working in the garden look for tasks in which a young one could take part. Find ways that they can be useful. It might take a few extra minutes of your time to get them started, but the payoff is invaluable.
4. Get Them Their Own Tools
Our sons both have miniature shovels we purchased at the hardware store. They even have a small child-size metal wheelbarrow for moving dirt. Both of our young kids love filling it and dumping it. Having their own tools also reminds them that they’re part of the team. They’ve got tools, just like Mom and Dad.
Any way to promote responsibility and ownership is healthy in a child’s development. You might want to hold off on the machetes though!
5. Give Them Their Own Area
If you have the space, dedicate a portion of the garden to plant a project of their own. If they want to use it to grow things, they can. Let them pick what they want and how to do it. If they start something on their own and it dies, “No biggie, we’ll try again” is a good mantra to remember to reiterate.
If they dig a meter deep hole and fill it with matchbox cars and leaves….so be it. It’s theirs. Pura Vida
6. Explain the Importance of their Contribution
Constantly remind them how important their role is in the garden process. The plants that we grow are food for the family. By guiding your children through the entire seed-to-harvest cycle, you not only incorporated them into your family’s food system, but you’ve let them play a part in the natural cycle of life. It’s also a good way to join concepts of gratitude and thankfulness for being able take part and eat from nature’s abundance.
In conclusion, if you want to get your kids into gardening, it may take some effort on your part, but you won’t regret it. If you can start them early, I am convinced it will foster a respect for nature, food, family and community.
Be sure and check out KidsGardening.org too. They have a lot of cool projects and curriculums if you’re looking at doing it for a larger groups or garden projects at schools.