Gardening for Kids

Gardeners garden for many reasons. Exercise and mental challenges motivate some gardeners, cut flowers and edible harvests drive others. I garden for these reasons and many more. One of my primary motivations is gardening for children.

Gardening for children encompasses a wide array of activities. One approach brings kids into the gardening process. Kids help prepare the garden beds, sow seeds, assist with transplants, weed, water, and harvest. All ages can play a role in the garden, with specific tasks modified in an age-appropriate way. My four-year-old grandson is glad to help me water the garden in summer though I have to help direct the hose. He is eager to pick tomatoes and dig up carrots once I point out which ones to harvest. His father planted a garden this year and enjoyed his help too.

During our extended vacation last month I hired our neighbor children to tend to the garden. The pre-teen girls watered, covered the plants when cold weather threatened, and, of course, harvested what they could. The youngest enthusiastically pulled carrots and beets from the ground to enjoy at home. Their mother helped guide them, but they did most of the chores themselves.

Just as adult gardeners reap satisfaction from gardening, children can feel the same sense of accomplishment and success. They can begin to realize a bond with nature. When exposed to gardening, children may start down the path toward a lifetime of gardening joy. The youngest neighbor girl has already decided to participate in 4-H gardening activities next year.

Another approach to gardening for children is for adults to grow plants for the benefit of children. I’ve done this for years. I’ve written before about growing green beans for the sole purpose of pickling them for my daughter. This year, as in years past, I grew pumpkins for the our neighbors and my grandson. Sure, I can use the orange flesh in pies and breads, but the pumpkins were intended to be the victims of Halloween carving.

I get great satisfaction out of sharing my harvest with kids. The smile on a child’s face when he or she picks out their personal pumpkin is priceless. The smile on my face when they try to pick up one that is heavier than they can manage stays with me for a long time.

Gardening for kids is a gardening activity that I recommend. I know gardeners with cordoned-off beds that no one but they are allowed to approach. Some use fences to keep animals, and children, out. We gardeners can have great pride in our successes and can be selfish and fearful also. I understand that, but with a little guidance and direction children really don’t pose much threat.

My children and my grandson have picked tomatoes before they were ripe. They have stepped on plants that were in their path. They have dug up young transplants. They have splashed water on me with errant watering. But all of their transgressions are less than the damage I’ve done in my own gardens. The number of plants that I damaged or killed over the years far exceeds their few accidents.

The benefits of allowing children into your gardening world can be huge for the children and for you. Sharing my passion for gardening with youth helps me navigate along my gardening journey and may even establish a beneficial legacy. My grandson is old enough now that next year he’ll have his own bed to plant among mine. He’ll be able learn gardening and maybe create some lifelong memories. I still remember eating a warm, ripe tomato while standing in the garden with my aunt and grandmother when I wasn’t much taller than the tomato vine.

Many of us garden because we were exposed to it by a friend or family member long ago. Pleasant memories are the foundation. All of us have the opportunity to create and share gardening memories with children. As you look to your next growing season think about how a child would view your garden. And then find a child to view it.


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