I recall many years ago when our kids were little we visited an elderly neighbour who gave a great piece of advice. “We never restrict our kids in the garden.” That was a great lesson for me. We tried to raise our own children with the same view in mind.
My granddaughter and I planted potatoes last year. I was excited to dig them out, but she was more intent on playing with the earthworms than on the potatoes. We’ve had a fairy garden for the last three years. She is much more interested in playing with the fairy characters in her garden than she is in the plants. After all they look pretty much the same from one week to the next. But she loves watching the ants, the butterflies, the sow bugs and anything else that moves. She is learning about the natural world as well as sharing good times with her grandpa.
Children learn from watching adults. They develop a sense of responsibility by caring for plants. They learn the joy of physical activity and are rewarded with fresh strawberries or cherry tomatoes. Playing outside and getting dirty can actually strengthen the immune system. They learn organization skills, planning skills, delayed gratification, and the rewards of effort.
My advice is to start small. It’s better to give a child one small garden to look after then to get too ambitious. Depending on the age of the child, they may need help behind the scenes to be successful.
A child is likely to be more motivated if given their own tools, such as a trowel and watering can. It can be a lot of fun helping to select what to grow. Making choices from the seed catalogues and nursery aisles with an adult will help build self confidence and a sense of ownership.
A fairy garden, a pot grown with cherry tomatoes, a stand of sunflowers or a row of peas are sure to please.
The rewards of sharing time in the garden go to adult and child equally.
Submitted by Don Farwell