If you want to entertain kids for hours but you want to keep them outdoors, try gardening with them. A child has the capacity to learn much more than reading, writing and arithmetic during his formative years. He also has the ability to learn about the care and responsibility of a living thing. An easy way to achieve this goal is through horticultural activities. Your kids will walk away with a great feeling of accomplishment, not to mention a tasty reward for their efforts.
Most children have favorite flowers, fruits and vegetables. Buzzle.com lists a variety of outdoor plants that are easy for kids to grow. Choose sweet peas, cosmos, beans, sunflowers, pumpkins, cucumbers and radishes from seed, or strawberries, tomatoes and peonies from plants. Fruit bushes such as blueberries and raspberries offer decades of pleasure after they’re established but may take a few seasons to kick in. Herbs live for many years with hardly any work. Ask your child to weigh the pros and cons of their choices. Is there enough room in your yard for a pumpkin patch? Is there a backdrop tall enough to sit behind 36-inch tall cosmos plants? Do they have the patience to wait a season or two for the berry bushes to come to life? Make this discussion part of their gardening education.
At the Nursery
Most nurseries and gardening supply centers sell seeds and supplies just for kids. You’ll find small gardening gloves, rakes, shovels, even miniature wheelbarrows. While there, don’t forget the compost, watering cans and plant food. Fun things to look for are pumpkin face molds, which are applied to growing pumpkins, shaping their final look. Tomato plants require stakes or special tomato cages to keep them upright as they grow. As a special treat, talk about constructing a bean teepee, using tall bamboo stakes or something just as high. Bunch the poles together in the shape of a teepee and secure them at the top with wire. Your kids will spend days inside the teepee during the summer months once the bean vine envelops the structure. If you’ve decided on container or flowerpot gardening, check to see what’s available at the store. If finances are of concern, search your home for substitute containers. Buckets, thoroughly cleaned paint cans, unused wheelbarrows … anything that can hold dirt and can be punctured at the bottom for water drainage is ideal. Gardening books round out the educational experience, though much can be found and printed from the Internet.
Planting and Maintenance
Ask your child to choose the sunniest spot in the yard to create his garden. Once the soil has softened in the spring, the ground is ready for digging, whether in tiny spots for seeds or larger areas for plants. Most plantings require a compost amendment to the soil. Make sure the garden is far away from curious pets, or fence it off. Regular feeding and watering are necessities. Take plenty of pictures before, during and after, and enjoy these precious moments while they last!