When my kids were toddlers, they wanted to help me in the garden every spring. They were more than happy to wear a silly straw hat like Dad and work the soil with a trowel. I would take the opportunity to talk to them about how our compost was conditioning the soil and how the worms helped the plants grow.
But by the time early summer rolled around, they had lost interest completely and I don’t think they remembered much of what I taught them in those early days of our garden.
My nephew showed up one spring with a surprise for me, a set of his own tools to help me in the garden. It was at that point that I realized I had never made gardening fun for my own kids. I hoped that the gardening bug would bite them just by letting them grow vegetables and flowers with me, but I learned that there was so much more that I could do.
Start By Giving Them Their Own Garden
The most excitement I have ever seen over gardening was when I offered my nephew his own little piece of my garden. When I laid down a row of bricks to define the border of his garden, he clasped his shovel with both hands and pointed it at the dirt excitedly. I knew that at least for today he was going to be a gardener, but how was I going to keep his interest all summer long?
Plant Seeds That Will Sprout Very Quickly
I knew that if I didn’t keep his interest I would soon lose it, so the next time he came over we started some seeds indoors that would germinate quickly. That day we planted radish, a small variety of carrots called babette, and loose leaf lettuce. I knew he would be back in two weeks, so I wanted to be sure he would be able to see some progress.
Grow A Few Sunflowers
I found that nothing is more impressive to small bodies than plants that grow way over their heads. He was in awe when my sunflowers shot up to be eye level with him in just a few weeks and was blown away when the large yellow flowers towered over him a few weeks later.
Don’t Plant Their Garden For Them
I like to try to keep my plants in something that resembles a row, but my nephew was having none of that. He wanted to haphazardly place one here and then another one there. I cringed a bit inside as he placed the carrots too close together and made a collage of lettuce and radish seedlings, but I didn’t stop him.
When he left, I did spread some of the plants out a bit so that they would have a better chance of growing but I didn’t tidy up his garden any more than was necessary.
Build A Scarecrow Together
As we got deeper and deeper into July, he did seem to be losing a little interest in his plot. Fortunately my wife, being more creative than I am, had the brilliant idea of building a scarecrow. She shook her head at me when I told her we didn’t need one but I eventually realized the scarecrow was for my nephew and not the garden.
She got some of our kids old clothes out of storage and when he came over again we stuffed them with straw. We painted a face on the old pillowcase we used for the head and staked our new friend right in the middle of his plot.
My nephew is in middle school now and we still talk about worms and compost from time to time. He doesn’t have his own plot any more but I’ve caught him pulling a few weeds out of my garden when he has been outside playing. He still likes to water it too, so I always leave the hose out for him when he comes over.
To learn about getting kids involved in the family garden, visit this page on the authors website.