Remember... a child's attention span is short
Find simple tasks for them, which they can successfully accomplish in a short period of time.
If they decide that it is time to take a break, and play with a bug for a while, let them,
they will get back to their gardening soon enough.
Children seem to have an unending source of energy, and have a need to stay busy,
but they will get bored if they do the same thing for too long.
Make sure that you have lots of options available for them, so that when the boredom does set in,
they can easily move on to their next project.
These small successes will show your child that they too, can do 'big people' things, and do them very well!
Let them know what a 'big help' they have been to you.
This will bring about increased self esteem, as well as having them eager to help you the next time.
Adult sized tools are burdensome for a small child to use, and using your garden trowel to do the work you are doing with a full sized shovel, just doesn't seem the same to a child. For about the same price that you will pay for your new rake, you can purchase a full set of kid sized, functional gardening tools. This may be the perfect reward to show them how much you appreciate all of the help they have been....
There are dozens of things that these little people can do to help you out, as you are doing your chores.
With your guidance, this ongoing, 'hands on' participation becomes the best teacher of all.
A child will soon learn that successful gardening is the result of a combination of many different, small steps.
As you begin,
keep in mind that a picture is worth a thousand words. By showing a child how to do something,
they are better able to understand the 'how and why' of what you are doing, and remember!.
Keep your explanations simple, but DO try to explain why you do what you are doing.
Begin with Gardening Basics... the Soil
Most young children love to dig and play in the dirt.
Dig a small planting hole together, to show them how you do it. Discuss why you are digging the hole at that particular size, so that your new plant will fit 'just right' into it's new home. With all you have to do, I'd be willing to bet that if you asked really nicely, your child would be more than happy to dig another hole, just like this one, but over there....
Its just like making MUD PIES.... just not as messy.....
As soon as a child can count, they can learn how to follow a simple recipe.
Show them how to blend together a batch of planting mix. Let's see.......
Under no circumstances, should a young child be allowed access to fertilizers or other chemicals!
- Put 3 scoops of that nice black garden soil from our garden, into our wheelbarrow.
- Then we will put in 1 scoop of peat moss from that pile over there......
(We add this to the soil, to make it fluffier, so the roots will grow better.)
- We should add 1 scoop of compost......
(We put this in our mix because it is a very good, natural food for our plant)
- And 1 'little' scoop of sand......
(This flower we are planting, doesn't like very much water, and the sand will help the water drain away...)
You get the idea....
Raking is another part of gardening that a child can handle, if given the chance. Using their own 'kid size' rake, they can get to the leaves and debris, which are somewhat difficult for us 'larger' people to get to. Ask them if they would mind helping you out with the raking, while you are tending to another project.
Tell them that the purpose of this raking operation is a very important one.
Not only will it make the garden look much nicer, it will also get rid of many of the hiding places of slugs and 'bad' bugs, so they can't attack your plants.
It is difficult for even an adult to navigate through a garden, mindful of where each foot step goes,
to be sure that it doesn't come down on top of a small, newly emerging plant.
If you take the time to explain about the importance of watching out for these 'baby' plants to your child,
they will be very, very careful! Nonetheless, use discretion, and common sense when choosing an area for them to rake. If you have a special area in the garden, where plants are extra fragile, or where you expect bulbs to sprout soon, don't be afraid to designate that area as temporarily off-limits.
Explain to them that no one, except for yourself, is allowed in that part of the garden for now.....
not even other adults, and tell them why. They will understand.
Kid Sized Plants and Flower Gardens
If you have the space, you may want to establish a special garden bed just for your child.
This may be a section of your garden which has been partitioned off with a small fence,
or possibly a circle or other shape, which has been laid out using 'special' rocks.
Another option would be to create an entirely new garden, elsewhere in the yard,
using landscape timbers for the borders. If you opt to start your child's garden from scratch,
keep in mind that all of the initial work of breaking ground will have to be done by yourself.
Which ever the case may be, keep it simple, and keep it relatively small.
You want your joint gardening project to be fun for you and for your child, not a chore!
The whole idea of gardening with your child is mutual enjoyment and quality time.
While you might consider the idea of having your child do the whole, entire project by themselves,
remember that it is EXTREMELY important that their first gardening experiences be positive ones.
To this end, do everything possible to ensure a first time gardening success story.
Help them, as they have been helping you. I'd recommend that you give your child a fertile, developed area of your garden as their gardening space.
Certainly, you have a spot in your garden, where ANYTHING will grow, and EVERYTHING seems to thrive.
Share that area, even if there is only enough space for your child to grow one or two plants...
The glow that will beam from your child's face, and the pride that they will show,
as their very first plant bursts into bloom is absolutely priceless!
When it is time to look through the garden catalog, or go down to the nursery to pick out your new plants,
invite your child's participation. Allow them to choose (with your helpful guidance...) a special plant or two of their own, to be planted alongside your new plants, even if they don't have their own space.
Use your knowledge of plants and gardening to guide them in their choice, but it should be their decision.
Children love fragrance, bright colors (the brighter the better!), size extremes, and different textures.
They are also 'proud as peacocks', when they grow a fruit or vegetable to share with the family at mealtime.
Point out some examples of these types of plants, keeping in mind that you will have to live with their choices too. (More than likely, they will eagerly accept your recommendations.)
Children tend to be slightly impatient at times, and like to see the fruits of their labor as soon as possible.
so it helps to have an 'instant gratification' type plant or two among the selections.
In most cases, I believe that it is far better for your child to utilize plants when possible, rather than seeds.
They are more reliable, and produce more of an 'instant' result.
Of course, it is also important for your child to become familiar with planting and growing seeds as well.
(There will be times that the only way of obtaining and growing a plant is from seed)
Starting seeds indoors is a great project that you can do together on a rainy day.
Gardening with Children Part 2
Choosing Appropriate, Easy to Grow Plants