The garden is a great place to spend time with your children or grandchildren. You are outdoors and do not have to spend a lot of money to have a lot of fun. Gardening with children can be a learning experience for the whole family.
Like most hobbies, if you enjoy it, the odds are greater that the children will too. Gardening is one of those hands-on pastimes. Don't tell them how, show them.
Younger children are no problem to get interested in gardening. You have two of their favorite things — dirt and water. Kids love to dig, so let them get dirty. Kids also love to water plants — a lot. Make sure they don't overwater whatever they have planted.
You may find it advisable to establish a gardening area just for them. This enables you to keep an eye on them and save your own plants from energetic young hands.
The garden offers numerous ideas for school assignments, from insect collections for a science project to flowers "I grew it myself" for show-and-tell.
If your home does not have space for a garden plot, plant a container garden. The same principles apply on a small scale, with a bonus feature - containers make great gifts to share.
A child can be disappointed when plants do not grow. Instant gratification is difficult in the garden, but there are a few plants whose seeds are fast-germinating (5-10 days). They are also easy to grow:
Flowers: Sunflower, zinnia, nasturtiums, daisies, marigold, bachelor's button, cosmos and alyssum.
Vegetables: Zucchini, radishes, pumpkin, peas and cucumbers. Get more ideas from our Gardening Basics video: What are the 5 Easiest Vegetables to Grow?
Don't be afraid to plant vegetables. Who knows, if they grow them, they might even eat them.
Bedding plants from the garden center are also an option. They are ready to take home and plant. Let the children pick them themselves. Annuals are great. They grow fast, produce profusely, whether flower or vegetable. Berries or other fruits are always good choices. For example, picking blueberries is a great pastime. Remember that for many fruit varieties, especially fruit trees, you will have to wait several years before they bear fruit.
Planting a shade tree is truly a long-term family project. Plant one to honor a family member or special date (don't forget to take pictures).
In addition to plants, don't forget to have a bench, swing or hammock where you can rest and enjoy your hard work. Taking photographs and keeping a garden journal allows you to keep track of your efforts. A garden journal will also be a great keepsake for years to come.
Planting and tending a garden teaches the lessons of nurturing, patience, ownership and responsibility. Mixing the good chores with the bad helps young gardeners take pride in their efforts. They can also enjoy the rewards.
Let them help make gardening decisions. Don't be afraid to fail. Part of gardening knowledge is the lesson on life cycles and trying again.
Forget the rules. What is a chore to many of us may be great fun to a youngster - weeding for example. You can even live with a weed or two if the kids think they are pretty.
Most children have not developed a fear of bugs, toads, snakes and other critters that we adults have. Keep an eye on them to see what kind of bug or animal they may be getting ready to pick up.
Use your time in the garden as an opportunity to teach. But don't forget an important element - you may learn something too.
In general, a garden is a safe and peaceful place. But here, as in every other situation where young people are involved, you must keep a watchful eye on young gardeners.