Most gardeners have always had a passion for their craft. Others developed their love of plants unexpectedly at some point. But one thing seems to remain constant regardless of when the gardening bug bit – childhood memories. The vast majority of us can at least recall specific memories from our childhoods that include the garden. For me, it was my grandfather and his strawberry patch. I also fondly remember my mother’s large vegetable gardens and canning much of the harvest. Needless to say, gardening is something that kids remember, and it’s also something that can carry on through into adulthood.
Ideas That Can Inspire an Interest in Gardening
For the most part, kids love getting out in the garden. Getting dirty, exploring and learning about their surroundings are all natural aspects of growing up. Granted, there may be resistance in older kids at first, but they generally come around. And there’s no guarantee that they’ll stick with gardening once grown, but they’ll always remember. I struggled with getting my grown kids interested in gardening, even though they’d been around it much of their childhood. But if you start planting the seed at a young age, at some point in their adulthood they will come to appreciate those lessons learned, even if they’ve shown little interest in between.
My daughter, for example, used to love helping me in the garden as a little girl. As time went on, however, life took over and she put gardening to bed. And although she may try to avoid the pastime, you can see the sense of pride and accomplishment written across her face when a plant has survived her neglect against all odds and bloomed. It’s still there… maybe buried deep, but it’s there.
With the grandkids, it seems to just come naturally. They absolutely love the garden and every time they visit Nana, all the plants must be watered. If there’s any fruit to harvest, they’ll take care of that too. They even have their own play area complete with digging tools and a planting bed. So how does one get their kids in the garden? Here are 10 ways to get kids interested in gardening:
- Teach the basics – Begin with soil. Let them dig and play while learning about the importance of soil. Have them search for earthworms and create their own vermicompost in a clear bin where they can watch them tunnel through the soil.
- Give them a garden of their own – Start small but allow your kids to choose an area for their garden and what plants to grow, preferably easy and fun plants like sunflowers, carrots, or radishes. Use this opportunity to teach them about planting and caring for gardens.
- Provide child sized tools – Make sure your kids have their own age-appropriate gardening tools. Show them how they’re used and emphasize the importance of caring for these too, including putting them away after each use, just like they should do when playing with their toys.
- Use themes in the garden – Nothing triggers imagination quite like a theme, whether based on a book character, game, hobby, or whatever. Theme gardens are the perfect way to include all your child’s favorites while stimulating interest and creativity.
- Explore the five senses – Take kids on a nature walk or stroll through your own garden. Have them touch various plants and describe how they feel. Let them describe what they see, hear, smell and taste too.
- Entertain kids with lore – It may sound cheesy but kids can learn about weather and how it affects plants by testing out weatherlore. For instance, flowers are said to smell more intense just before rain. When it’s is in the forecast, go outside and smell the flowers. Do it again once the rain clears. Was there a difference?
- Encourage insects and wildlife – What kid doesn’t love insects, birds and other wildlife? Teach them about their importance in the garden and learn about the local species in your region. Have them create habitat homes for their gardens and plant flowers for pollinators to invite these helpful creatures.
- Recycle things in the garden – Creating a compost pile with kids is a great way to inspire interest in the environment. Reuse grass clippings, leaves, garden waste and kitchen scraps in compost while teaching kids how it breaks down into a healthy amendment for soil. Utilize the same concept with mulch by reusing pine needles or leaves. You can also allow them to get creative with garden containers by reusing ordinary, everyday items.
- Keep a journal – Encourage kids to keep track of plant growth in their garden with a journal. This is also a good way to learn about plants’ parts and their lifecycle by drawing plants and adding labels. They can even write stories about their gardens, like the plants that grow there and the creatures that visit.
- Create a menu from the garden harvest – Don’t forget to include their harvest in tasty dishes. Let your kids create a menu from the food grown in their garden. Fruits and vegetables take on a whole new outlook when it’s something they’ve grown themselves.
Gardens are well known for triggering memories. While most kids in the garden continue harboring a lifelong affinity for plants, even those that aren’t known to garden as adults likely have a positive memory somewhere from their childhood that relates to gardening. All it takes is planting that one seed.