Gardening and homesteading is a lot of work. Sometimes, it’s a lot of hard work. However, it’s also a great opportunity to get the whole family together for some bonding. When you plant your garden together, you have a great opportunity to teach children about where their food comes from, and they’ll be much more interested in the whole process when they are involved in some way. Unfortunately, there aren’t many kids that love hard work, so as parents we need to get creative to get them involved in these projects. Over the last few years of gardening with my daughter, I’ve come up with a few handy tips to make gardening with kids more fun. Read on to see if you can incorporate some of these tips into your gardening chores.
1) Let them get dirty.
When you go out to garden, do you wear cute clothes and worry about your nails? Probably not. So don’t expect it of your kids, either. Accept the fact that dirt is very appealing to kids, and they will put their hands in it, and most likely rub their hands on their shirts at some point, too. Letting loose and allowing your kids to get dirty and feel the soil allows them to truly get into the gardening experience.
2) Let them help.
Kids just want to feel useful, especially as they get to be “big kids.” If you don’t trust them to actually handle the plants (which I wouldn’t blame you), let them dig holes, add fertilizer (only if they are old enough to not eat it), water the plants, or pat down the dirt.
3) Expect them to get distracted.
I can’t tell you how many times Pistache has wandered off and gotten distracted during a long gardening session. Whether she’s smelling the flowers, chasing butterflies, or digging up earth worms, there’s always something that captures her interest while we’re all hard at work. That’s what kids do! Appreciate the fact that they are still out in nature and let them enjoy their distraction for awhile while you get some of the harder work done. Sometimes, it really is nice to get them out of your hair for a few minutes while you do some more tedious chores.
4) Let them taste the fruits of their labor.
From our first strawberry plants, I think I got one strawberry. Pistache just loved them so much! She had helped us grow them, and she watched every day for new red berries to pick and eat. It got her excited in the process. It made her want to help out more. As long as you aren’t spraying pesticides onto your plants, let your kids taste things straight from the garden! The little bit of dirt won’t hurt them, and they’ll thoroughly enjoy picking food straight from the plants and tasting it at its freshest.
5) Remember to smile.
Smile, and remember to keep smiling. Smile when they get distracted. Smile when they eat all the strawberries. Smile when they accidentally pull up a carrot while helping you weed the garden. Smile when they are covered head to toe in dirt. Just smile. Because you are outside enjoying nature. Because you are teaching your child to love a valuable chore. Because maybe one day this generation may be a generation of gardeners and homesteaders, all because you made it fun.
Gardening with kids can certainly pose a challenge, but it is also a great bonding experience for the whole family. I like to think that the last three years of gardening with Pistache has taught her to love being outside in nature. Unlike many kids her age, she knows where her food comes from, and what each vegetable looks like. She gets excited when we go outside and runs to grab her own gardening gloves, shovel, and ho so that she can help. Sure, she gets distracted sometimes, and she doesn’t keep her mess as contained as I’d like, but she gets better every year! I hope these five tips can help you have a satisfying and rewarding gardening experience with your kids this year, too.