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1.Focus on making it fun and exciting.
When children realize how many interesting, intriguing and even gross things there are to be involved in, they'll be more likely to want to get involved. Whenever planning anything, work out the fun angle, to keep your children's interest engaged.
Kit out your kids. A big part of the fun is having the right tools and there are many gardening tools made just for kids, in their size, and in wonderful colors. Colorful tools, while not essential, are a helpful way to encourage kids to join in. Gardening gloves for kids often come in wonderful colors and patterns too and each child should have a pair of his or her own.
3.Choose plants that are easy to grow.
While it's important to involve your children in choosing the plants, make sure that the choice is from plants likely to be as trouble-free as possible, especially for beginner gardeners. Also choose a few plants that will produce a delicious edible harvest for your children to pick and take straight to the table from the garden. Some good starter choices include:
4. Show your children the basics of planting seeds and seedlings in the ground.
Do the hard work of tilling the soil and adding the nutrients for them––they can learn about that later. For now, give them the joy of planting, watering and waiting for their little plants to sprout.
For very small hands, make the job even easier by planting the seeds in cardboard egg cartons. When it comes time to transfer the seedling (or the seed) to the soil, cut out each little egg holding portion and let your kids plant the whole thing into the ground. The carton will disintegrate and no seeds or seedlings get lost in the transition.
5.Include wildlife in your child's gardening experience.
Add a birdbath, bird feeder and feeders for any furry wildlife such as squirrels, hedgehogs, possums, or whatever it's okay to attract to your yard. If you have space, include a small pond for fish. Children will love the experience of seeing animals in the garden.
6.Show children how to grow plants from cuttings.
This will amaze them endlessly, to see how you can take a cutting and get a new plant. Try plants that take easily to begin with, such as succulents, begonias, pelargoniums and bromeliads. They can experiment with harder ones as they become more experienced.
7.Make things for the garden.
Get crafty with the kids and recycle, repurpose and remake things that can serve as decorations or tools in the garden. There are lots of possibilities, including:
8. Decorate the garden with your kids' art and craft efforts.
After you've made the objects, or purchased some at the garden center with your kids' agreement, have the kids decide where they'd like the garden decorations to go. Encourage continued decorating projects, including removal of decorations that have become a little worse for wear over time.
9.Talk to your kids about the importance of native vegetation in gardens.
Explain that while it's fun to grow flowers and veggies, care needs to be taken to prevent non-native plants from escaping the garden and invading the local environment. Show them how to control weeds and how to keep strong growing plants under control. Explain to them why you cannot grow some plants in the garden, such as plants that are considered to be invasive species. Encourage them to learn as much as possible about native plants and how to care for these.
10.Acknowledge the place of the digital era in gardening.
Kids love computers and electronic gadgets and it can be hard to get them off sometimes. However, you can make the most of their affinity for all things electronic and have them download a suitable gardening app or two, and by doing research about their garden and its plants online. Gardening calendars are another useful tool found in many online gardening sites. And as the kids get older, help them to use the internet to search for harder garden projects, like making a sundial, building a chicken coop or rigging up a solar power warming pad. Encourage the exchange of knowledge online into real achievements in the garden––this is a good lesson in ensuring that they see the computer as a tool in wider life activities.
11.Show kids how to compost.
It can be a lot of fun seeing kitchen scraps turn to fertile soil in time. Make sure that they don't get rostered to do compost deliveries every day though, or they'll resent it! Share the task around. Another great way to enthuse kids about compost and fertilizer is to get a worm farm. Show them how it works, how to feed the worms and how to handle them. They'll probably start naming the worms and wanting to see them regularly.
12.Keep gardening even when the season changes.
Bring the garden indoors for winter, so that your kids can still enjoy the benefits of growing plants and learn how some plants can actually thrive in an indoor environment. Good choices include a small herb garden, a windowsill planter, a terrarium built in an unwanted fish tank, or a window box.
13.Keep making gardening an exciting experience and be enthusiastic about it.
Gardening is an experience for life and one of the lessons it teaches children is that there is a season for everything and that it all cycles again. Learning this can be highly beneficial, especially for children prone to spending a lot of time indoors and in cars going to other indoor places.
- Some children do not like the texture of soil against their hands. Don't force the issue––buy a lovely pair of gardening gloves and give them a knee rest so that they don't have to get soil on their skin. Don't mock it, this will only put the child off and the sensitivity may wear off in time if you let it be.
- Consider planting a tree for each child born. At each birthday, note the child's height and the tree height and keep comparing these as each child grows. This can be a lovely way to keep your child excited about how things grow.
- Get children started with weeding early on. Many young children will love to help out with weeding. This tends to change as children age, but fun can be had by adding bounties to weeds, such as one cent a weed or a dollar for a pile of weeds reaching a pre-determined height, etc.
- Try growing some root crops. It's great seeing a kid's face light up when they pull a huge carrot or potato out of the ground!
- Don't spoil your child by giving them lots of rewards. Gardening and growing is a reward in and of itself.
- Ensure that children understand how to be careful whilst using some of the tools. In particular, show them how to hold tools when moving around and using them and to never run when holding such items.
- Always supervise children using garden tools.
- If your children like eating anything they touch, supervise closely to prevent them from eating something poisonous. Teach them to leave unknown berries, leaves and flowers alone. Teach them which plants are safe to eat.
- If there are nasty pests in the garden, like spitting caterpillars, teach your kids to recognize them and to stay aware from them. Teach children to never disturb ant, wasp or bee nests either; teach respect, not disgust for such creatures.