Encouraging children to learn and experience gardening boosts their development by helping them become happier, more confident and resilient as well as teaching children patience and the benefits of a healthy diet and lifestyle.
As parents, what are you waiting for?
Whether you have a large garden, a back yard, a courtyard, a balcony or just a sunny window ledge, you can help your child to create a space for growing plants.
A great way to go is to plant for all five senses
– bright colored flowers such as sunflowers or marigolds are easy to grow from seed. More unusual to try would be the chameleon plant with its 3-toned foliage that smells of lemon or “Chocolate ruffles” which has purple leaves with chocolate-colored undersides and pretty pink blossom.
– more difficult to achieve in an inside place but you can always take your child to a park or other outdoor space to just sit and listen to all the natural sounds around you – the sound the wind makes through grasses, bees going from flower to flower and birds singing. If you do have a garden of your own, you can plant Greater Quaking Grass (which is an annual grass that makes a rustling sound in the wind) or Love-in-a-Mist with its bright blue flowers that form seed-pods that rattle when shaken. If you have space, try growing sweet corn for sound and taste. It grows easily and quickly.
– many plants have interesting textures. Children always love Lamb’s Ears which has silky furry leaves to stroke. See what others you can include in your garden.
– one of the more obvious senses that flowers heighten. Lavender is a good plant for this. The flowers can be cut and dried to use inside too.
– Nasturtiums are an easy plant for children to grow – colorful and tasty! Baby tomatoes or wild strawberry are two other suggestions.
Gardening with children encourages their interest and enthusiasm in nature early on in life, giving them basic skills as well as an understanding of how the ecosystem works. You don’t have to teach children to have an interest in all things natural – it is just there naturally! They don’t mind getting dirty or wet – they love it. They are fascinated with insects and butterflies and even slugs and snails. So encourage this interest and don’t put them off. Answer their questions.
It is not even the end of the world if they get the odd insect bite or sting
Just have the first aid kit handy!
- Children can easily become discouraged if they plant a seed and nothing happens. So for early gardening experiences, stick to fool-proof seeds that will respond quickly to sun and water. Radish seeds are one of the easiest and quickest to grow.
- Even if you live in a flat with no garden, there are many vegetables which can be grown in containers, either inside or out. You can grow strawberries in window boxes. It just takes a bit more research and ingenuity on your part. Your child is going to learn so much but then so are you!
Always look for seeds that are non-GMO.
- And Michelle Obama became a role model for other parents when she started a vegetable garden with her daughters in the corner of the White House south lawn, planting lettuce, chard, kale and more. The good news is that many are now following in her footsteps as seed companies across the US say they're swamped with orders from first-time gardeners eager to grow their own.