By Paige Mercer
We live in a world of convenience. We eat in restaurants, get our food from the store, and open a can to find vegetables. Is it any wonder that many children don’t understand how nature helps to provide us with the food we eat? But we can change that by teaching kids to grow a garden and at the same time help them to connect with nature. In addition to helping kids connect with nature, teaching them to care for growing things will help them appreciate the environment.
The first step in helping children grow a garden is to teach them the basics. Before the regular growing season begins, have the kids plant a bean seed in a paper cup filled with potting soil. Put the cup in a sunny window and show the children how to water and care for the little plant. As it sprouts and begins to grow, talk to the kids about how plants germinate and grow from that little seed. Once kids have experienced growing a plant inside, they are so excited to grow their own garden outside!
A child’s garden doesn’t need to be large or filled with a large variety of plants. Keep it simple and grow vegetables that kids like. Let your children participate in selecting the seeds, but encourage them to grow fun crops like pumpkins as well. Kids love to carve a Jack-o-Lantern out of a pumpkin they grew themselves! Just remember, pumpkins need room to spread out so leave plenty of space around the plant.
Help your children understand about natural fertilizers such as compost. Create a family compost pile for the plant waste and any kitchen scraps. Teaching kids about returning organic waste back to nature will help them understand the cycle of plant life. As the compost matures and is ready, let the kids help you work it back into the soil. Once they learn the basics of composting they will be more aware of what waste can be added to the compost pile.
Show the kids how to prepare the bed and sow the seeds. Teach them about proper watering, weeding and fertilization. As the plants mature and begin to crowd each other, explain the purpose of thinning the plants. Explain that for a bountiful harvest the plants need to have room to grow as large as possible. Some of the plants need to be removed to allow that to happen.
As you harvest your garden, teach your children how to preserve it by canning or freezing. This will help them understand how the food in the garden gets into the grocery store. If you have an abundant harvest, allow your children to take it to a local farmer’s market or food pantry. Sharing the harvest gives them a sense of service and compassion for those in need.
A family garden is a great way to grow close as a family while you teach about nature and the environment. Planting a garden can also create memories your children will carry with them forever.
Paige believes in teaching her children about nature and the environment. She loves to garden and finds ways to make it simpler. Like using a coiled garden hose [http://www.waterhosereel.org/coiled-garden-hose/] to keep her hose under control! She is happy when she finds the best garden hose storage [http://www.waterhosereel.org/garden-hose-storage] for her garden.