I love waking up on the weekend and looking outside at our vegetable garden to see how much it has grown over the past week while I was at work and out and about.I love to garden, and I made the decision to start teaching Baby Bird about gardening at 21 months old.
It might seem young to some but for us, it is turning out to be a wonderful experience for everyone involved.
Here’s some tips to involving kids in the process:
Don’t get too attached with your garden. You know you, and if you know you are going to freak out if your child pulls a tomato off the plant before it is ready, then wait until they are MUCH older to work with them.
After planting my whole garden, I planted a miniature tomato plant in a pot for our daughter. It sits on our deck so she can walk up to it easily. When we got our first red tomato, I showed it to her and she got to pick it. She was really proud of herself and asked me to cut it up for her.
After that, there were no more red tomatoes. So, like every impatient child, she pulled a green one. I didn’t get mad, but I told her that we had to wait until they began to turn red or they won’t taste good. I asked if she wanted to try to taste the green one and she did. We agreed that they don’t taste as good as the red ones. She still picks the green ones occasionally, but she is learning.
Plant some fun stuff. In addition to my garden, and her tomato, I planted some strawberries in a planter as well as a bunch of herbs. I showed her that some plants have different tastes to them and I showed her which ones she can try to taste.
I have chocolate mint, oregano, dill, curry and more on the deck. I am constantly amazed at what she absorbs. I was watching her yesterday and she was walking around the herbs and tasting a couple of them. She walked right by the lavender and her tomato plant because I told her that those leaves did not taste good (I told her that three weeks ago).
The trick to doing this though is to know your plants. Don’t plant anything that has poisonous leaves. If Baby Bird eats something in our yard that isn’t a herb, it will just taste bad, but regardless, we are always with her to watch and teach her.
Include your child in the maintenance. Baby Bird loves to water the plants at home. I tell her that plants need water to live and that on dry days they get thirsty just like she does.
Now, you may think “What does a two-year old understand.” I’m telling you, they understand a lot. I was told last week by one of the staff that when Baby Bird goes outside to play, she grabs a pail and waters every flower in the flowerbed that they planted.
My daughter has also helped me to pick the radishes in our garden. She loves radishes and it was a lot of fun for her to go and help mom pull them out of the ground, wash them and cut them up.
The taste doesn’t get any better than that either.
Give them their own area. Once your child has shown a small interest in gardening, you can offer to set them up with their own area. Either a section of your garden, some planters, or a small raised bed will do nicely. Ask them what they want to plant. If they are a little older, you can take them to your local nursery to help pick what type of tomato they want to try. If they are younger, I suggest picking it yourself.
Help them plant their garden and then offer to help them take care of it. Let them take the lead on their space though. You can still remind them that their carrots need picking, but don’t just go and take over. Word it as though you are including them every step of they way. Something like “do you want to pull a carrot to see how big they are getting?” will include them in the process.
Have patience. As with gardening, you need to have patience when sharing what you know with your kids. If you make it truly an enjoyable, learning experience where they can explore and learn both with you and on their own, then they will pick it up – if they enjoy it. You may find out that your child does not want to garden in which case, you move on to the next thing.
This is what we’ve done so far and it seems to be working well. Time will tell if she decides it’s something that interests her, but so far all I have to say is “Let’s go check to see if there are any red strawberries” and she will drop what ever she is doing and follow me outside.