Kids and Fountains

Gardening can be a great way to teach kids about nature while having fun at the same time. Planting seeds and watching them grow offers children the chance to learn about the life cycles of a plant, and where food actually comes from (not just the super market). Page photoIt also teaches them how to be responsible, caring, and nurturing, as well as giving them an awareness of the environment - these are all important for children to become well-rounded individuals.

For those parents who find it difficult to get their kids to eat healthily, planting and gardening can be a good way to have them learn about the importance of eating a well-balanced diet. There is no need to be overwhelmed by the idea of starting a garden with your kids either. Gardening with kids is a great activity for your children to learn and grow, both physically and emotionally. And you don't need a big area, a fancy water feature like a water fountain from garden-fountains.com, or even garden statuary. If you don’t have a large outdoor garden space, you can use containers - all you need is soil and some sunshine. Or you could plant seeds in a small raised bed or grow beans and other edibles on a trellis. Children will love it.

Getting Kids Started: The Basics

Creating gardening ideas for kids is a positive way for children to learn so many things. Although they might not want to get involved in gardening activities at first, they will soon see that cultivating a garden can be a fun way to learn. Following are some tips on how to get kids involved and excited about gardens!

  • Give your child some space; literally! Kids love having a space to call their own, whether it’s their desk area in the house or the tent they created with blankets in the family room. The same is true for gardening with kids. Dedicate a small plot of the garden just for them. A few tips - put a simple or even fancy border around it, perhaps purchase one of the stepping-stone-making kits found at crafts stores in which they can mold their name and make their handprint. Make it fun.
  • Have them join you at the nursery garden. Let your kids know you care what they think. New graphicAsk them which kinds of plants, flowers, and vegetables they like. Explain which plants will work well in your garden and which won't.
  • Give children choices, albeit limited. While you’re at the nursery, ask them if they like pansies or petunias, marigolds or zinnias. This will give them a feeling of power without allowing them to get carried away.
  • Remind them there are no money seeds. Discuss the budget. Let them help select seeds, the blossoming plants, and the soil at the nursery. You can turn it into a math lesson. Let your child do the money calculations and they can tell you when the money runs out.
  • Let your child lead - especially the tiny ones. Let him/her dig, explore, and play with bugs. You may be tempted to steer your child in another direction (like actually watering or weeding the garden for them), but this is a great way for your child to explore this exciting new world.
  • Plan, plan, and plan some more. Check out independent book stores for gardening books. If you have older children, about 8 or 9 or older, give them the activity of plotting out their garden on paper. Provide him/her with graph paper, pencils, and seed catalogs. Give them a group of flowers and plants from which to choose, and then let them draw out their garden.
  • Get them their own gardening tools. Nothing will motivate your little gardener more than having a little shovel, gardening gloves, and a watering pail. And don`t forget those rubber boots!
  • Plant pretty and colorful flowers. This attracts the attention of children. Explain to them about pollination and cut some blooms to bring inside the house to display.

Water, Bugs, and the Harvest

  • Keep tabs on the water. New recreationLet your child water his/her garden but emphasize that too much water is bad for a plant. This also teaches them about water conservation.
  • Make pulling weeds fun. It's not a fun job but never let your kids pick up on that, or they'll learn that attitude, too. Turn weed-pulling into a fun activity - see who can pull the most weeds.
  • Get buggy with it - give your child a jar and let them collect bugs. You can even grow an area that nurtures wildlife. For example, grow nasturtiums that bring caterpillars that turn in to butterflies, or stop mowing for a bit to let pollinator-friendly weeds to grow in.
  • Plant with results in mind. Radishes, pumpkins, zucchini, and beans are simple vegetables to plant. When it comes to flowers, you will see a lot of quick blooms with marigolds, snapdragons, zinnias, and cosmos during the season. Don't start everything in your garden from seeds - kids don't have that much patience. Sprinkle in some starter plants, whether it's tomatoes or marigolds.
  • Keep daily tabs on the garden. You don't want your child to miss that first leaf that pokes its head up out of the soil or the first green tomato that starts to grow.
  • Of course, include your child in the best part of gardening; the harvest. Let your child venture into the garden with a basket. Explain how to look for ripe vegetables. Make your way back to the kitchen and let your child help you prepare a salad or vegetable dish with your bounty.

The Health Benefits of Gardening for Kids

Many studies have shown that children who get involved in gardening of some kind see many kinds of advantages, both for the body and the soul. First, let us start with how it benefits a child's brain. Seeing seeds turn into plants sparks a child's imagination which in turn leads to questions, like: how do plants drink water and why do they need sunshine? And what about those worms? Yuck. That will lead to talking about the composition of soil, photosynthesis, and more. New photoThat's a science class! When growing their own fruits and vegetables, kids will eat their harvest, filled with nutrients - think spinach, garlic, and beets - which are important in brain development and general growth. They may not like these foods at first but it's a good introduction and they eventually might come around it they keep trying and tasting them.

Let's not forget the physical aspect of gardening. Simple activities like moving containers and planting build strength and fine-tune motor skills. Kids love to get dirty - this is a fact. Well, it turns out that this might be a good thing. Being exposed to germs in the soil builds and develops the immune system and increases their body's ability to combat allergies, asthma, and autoimmune conditions. Also, when they are planting and gardening, they are not on their electronic devices so this activity can also reduce the feelings of stress, anxiety, and help with sleep. Most importantly, children who eat something they grew themselves tend to be more confident and have greater self-esteem.

After the Growing Season

Once your garden is underway, weeds are being trimmed and the watering is on schedule, it's important to find more activities for your child that involve the garden. Beginning a gardening journal is a great way to continue to cultivate your child's gardening knowledge - and his or her writing. Encourage your child to write about how the vegetables and flowers are doing every week. Provide paints, colored pencils, and crayons so they can draw or waterpaint pictures. Again, this allows them to learn and have fun. And who knows, they might love it so much, they become seasoned gardeners!