By Hannah Schenker
Did your parents keep a garden when you were growing up? For many of us, this was just the norm – and something we perhaps took for granted. I grew up with passionate gardeners for parents, so that meant I could always find them somewhere outside, tending to the organic vegetables, the plentiful flowers (many of them edible), fruit and nut trees. Heading out on missions to collect seagrass or horse poo was a regular occurrence (though I whinged and whined about that, for sure!). Going out into the garden was such a part of everyday life for me, that it’s hard to imagine children growing up without one. There is magic out there: sunlight and rain; things to munch on; things to dig; things to bury gently beneath the soil and watch them grow.
You don’t need to be an experienced gardener or have a vast rural property in order to start growing a garden – all you need is a little curiosity and a willingness to try. Getting kids in the garden is messy, a great learning opportunity and also fun. Learning where your food comes from is important for everyone and encourages healthy eating. The best part is sampling those bursting cherry tomatoes, juicy strawberries, crisp radishes, crunchy greens, popping open the peas…of course they will want to try their own home-grown produce! They will be learning lots about different plants but also about all the bugs and bees and worms living out there, and how they all play their part. You can start a compost if you haven’t already. Gardening is wonderful because you’re outdoors in the fresh air and the elements, it’s physical and it’s dirty – all great things for growing bodies. Oh, and it’s stress-relieving too!
So here are some tips for getting the kids involved in the garden:
Make space – it doesn’t have to be large
You don’t need a huge property or even a huge space – but try giving your child their own little patch of soil in which to plant and play. Whether it’s a container or a plot, having their own garden space will give your child some ownership over the area and the process, and connect it more strongly to themselves. They can help to decide what will be their garden, and it will be theirs to tend, to plant, to grow and to make mistakes – all with your help and support of course. Even a jar of sprouts on the kitchen bench can be fun – and they’re super quick and easy to grow and the whole process is visible through the glass.
Add some colour
We could all use more colour in our lives – so add some colour to your garden! Whether its a row of sunny yellow sunflowers, brightly painted raised garden bed surrounds, rainbow wind chimes hanging in the tree, or a wide variety of different coloured vegetables and flowers – you can create a rainbow out there. When sourcing seeds, look for differently coloured variations on vegetables they already know – like striped beetroots, or purple carrots. Plants lots of bright flowers – marigolds, nasturtiums and zinnias are great! Allium flowers (the flowers of chives, onions, leeks) create beautiful purple “fairy wands”. Think outside the box, get creative and let the colour in.
Let your child choose the plants – but make sure you throw in some easy-to-grow edibles
Take the time to ask your child what they would like to grow – edibles? Flowers? You could consider growing some sensory plants too. Some plants are easier to grow than others – so have a selection of easy-growing plants for your child to choose from. Also choose plants that don’t need masses of space in which to grow – things like strawberries, calendula, lettuces, peas, strawberries, carrots, cucumbers. When the fruits or vegetables are big enough, encourage your child to eat them right there in the garden, straight off the plant – that’s part of the magic of gardening. Vegetables that little hands can open are fun and sensory too – like peas and beans.
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