Frugal Fun: Encourage Kids to Garden
A gold star to you, brilliant moms and dads who encourage their kids to garden. Hey, it’s frugal fun so why not? Nothing is better than to share the wonders of nature with a child. Not only will they delight in the scents and colors of plants, flowers, trees and shrubs and the creatures within the garden, but you will feel like a kid again at their infectious sense of magic and wonder. Anyone who has read “The Secret Garden” and is familiar with what happens to Mary Lennox and her cousin Colin knows what I’m talking about.
Justin in the garden
I have an autistic son who learned many flowers by name at a time when he could barely communicate. He could actually discern a Marigold from a Coreopsis. That’s better than my husband could do! We started out slowly, only looking at color recognition at first. After that we went onto shapes. The round Daisy, the long spikes of the Liatris, the trumpet-shaped Lily and the bells of Lily-of-the-valley all fascinated him. He smelled them, he picked them, he grew familiar with them and learned to like them. By the way, his favorite is the dandelion because he could always find one! If he could learn from a garden any child can.
With the very young child and attention spans being short, time and size is of most importance. By this I mean choose seeds that are large so the kids can handle them easily and seeds that sprout quickly. Kids want to see something happening like right now! Large seeds* like Pumpkin, Sunflower, Watermelon, Nasturtium and Four O’clocks can easily be planted by even a toddler. To get theses and any seed to sprout more quickly the simple practice of soaking them over-night in warm water gets that tough coat to soften up for quicker germination. Faster is always better with little kids.
Little ones love to give mom a bouquet from their own garden, so profuse bloomers like Zinnia, Daisy, Black-eyed Susan, Cosmos, Marigold and Petunia are great for this purpose. Lamb’s Ear is a perennial with fuzzy leaves that kids will love to touch and you do want them to touch. Many Botanical gardens across the country have special ‘Touch-me’ sections which kids love. Lavender, Catnip, Bee balm, Lemon Thyme, and Mint will get a little kid rubbing leaves to release the scent and tickle their noses.
For the older child potatoes, tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, peas and corn grown by the child will somehow taste better than the ones mom makes him eat. And what kid doesn’t like blueberries and strawberries? Kids love picking berries and eating them, too!
They may even like that herbal tea made from the lemon grass and mint you grow outside the kitchen door. That’s how my mom got me interested in plants. A plant that can actually make you feel better? Whoa, what a concept! My kids couldn’t believe it when I showed them my willow tree and said, “This is where aspirin comes from.” A great opportunity to show all the great wonders from plants. From bubble gum, rope, medicines to cork and cinnamon, we get all sorts of things from plants and kids like to know this stuff.
Then there are the creatures crawling, slithering, flying and croaking all over the yard. What kid isn’t amazed to see a tiny wiggly tadpole grow into a frog or a caterpillar turning into a butterfly? Let them stick their fingers in the soil and watch the worms. Let them see the bluebird building its nest. Let them get dirty. Let them watch the bumble bee buzz around from flower to flower. Let them dig in the garden. Show them the Tulip bulb and the Iris rhizome and let them tell you the difference.
The lessons to be learned in a garden can last a lifetime: learning colors and shapes, names of flowers and creatures, lessons of caring and patience, learning appreciation for the land that gives us good things to eat not to mention speech development and dexterity skills. Have you gotten the idea yet that I really believe in kids in the garden? Yes, you are a great parent for thinking of it.
*WARNING: Please, oh please, make sure to watch kids very carefully in the garden. Make certain that they do not put seeds or leaves of any kind in their mouths before checking with you. It is best to show them up front the difference between what is safe to eat (e.g. roasted sunflower seeds ) and what is not (e.g. all seeds sold for planting ONLY). Unfortunately, some seeds and plants are toxic and can really harm a little tike if ingested. Make certain you read any and all plant products for safety information.
Glory Lennon loves to garden and she doesn’t care where she does it. You can find more about other plants to grow at Glory’s Garden.