Tending a garden serves as an introduction to the changing weather patterns and the seasonal cycles of nature from planting the seed, harvesting (e.g. eating the vegetables, picking and drying the flowers or collecting the seed) and then preparing for the next season.
They also learn an important life lesson in responsibility. If they don’t water and nourish the plants they can die through lack of attention.
If you can, decide with your child what kind of garden your child would like – butterfly, herb, flower, vegetable etc. To make the project more fun and real, buy child-sized gloves, planting tools, a wheelbarrow and a watering can.
Sketch a plan for the garden and mark off the area in the garden – maybe a flower garden around a playhouse or a small vegetable patch your child can call his or her own.
Turn the soil breaking up any lumps and condition it with organic compost if necessary.
If you don’t have a suitable area of ground, use container pots, planter boxes or even an old half wine barrel.
Children can get interested in gardening from a very young age and with a little encouragement discover this fun hobby while enjoying the two things they love – sand and outdoors.
With very young children it is easier to grow flowers directly from seed. The roots on seedlings easily become damaged as they take them from the pots and transplant into the soil.
Let children choose their own plants and look for easy germinating types such as cosmos, snapdragons or the all time favourite sunflowers. Bulbs are also a great favourite among young children but they can be typically impatient waiting for the bulbs to sprout and grow.
Carrots, peas and strawberries tend to be the favourite vegetables as they are easy to grow and great to eat. One study found that when four-and five-year-olds spent about 30 minutes a week for eight weeks tending a garden, they were more likely to eat their vegetables, which is a challenge for most parents!
Create a garden journal and take photos as the project progresses, so your child will have something to remember over the winter months until the next season begins.