Vegetable gardening can be a fun and relaxing activity for the grown-ups after having a trying day at the office. Going out to the vegetable garden to care for the fabulous vegetables we are growing can be a wonderful way to unwind.
Well, it does not have to be just for the adults – getting children involved in vegetable gardening can be even more rewarding. One of the biggest challenges when introducing youngsters to vegetable gardening is keeping them entertained and interested. Here are a few tips to help get your children involved (and keep them interested) in vegetable gardening.
- Reserve a small space just for them – Leave a small space at the end of the vegetable garden just for the children. It doesn’t have to be huge, a 5’x5′ area is great. If you don’t have that much room to spare, use some good sized containers. It won’t take much to keep them well occupied.
- Let the children pick out what to grow – Give children an assortment of seeds that they can choose from. Most times when they pick what they want to grow, they stay interested longer. Their enthusiasm may peter out if they are “forced” to grow certain vegetables.
- Let the children paint or decorate – If using pots or containers, make painting and decorating them an activity. Maybe paint a picture of what they are growing. They will love bright, vivid colors. This will be fun for you and your children, and encourages individualism.
- Get them some gardening tools they can use – Don’t buy the cheap little plastic trowels and shovels. They break easily and will not last long. You can usually find smaller versions of gardening tools at most garden centers. Let the children paint or decorate these as well. Remember – make gardening fun.
- Let them grow fun and interesting vegetables – Find vegetables that have fun names like 'Baby Boo Pumpkin', 'Fairy Tale Eggplant' or Baby Carrots. Build a cucumber trellis (with their assistance) and let them plant cucumbers around it. They will enjoy seeing how far the vine has grown up the trellis each day. Although not a vegetable, grow some sunflowers and have a friendly contest on who can grow the tallest one.
- Use vegetables that grow quickly – Growing vegetables that take a long time to germinate or produce tends to create boredom with children. Remember, it doesn’t take much to lose their attention. Try growing radishes, lettuces, cress, and carrots. These vegetables germinate and grow quickly.
- Use their garden as an educational tool – Make each day in the garden a day of learning for the children. Plant summer squash and teach them the differences between male and female flowers. Let them learn how to train a vine to climb up a trellis. Teach them how to start a small compost pile, and how to maintain it. You can also teach them the importance of compost and how to use it. It will be fun for them to watch the compost items gradually turn into compost (plus it’s a good way to get them to pick up sticks from the yard).
- Let them plant their own seeds – Guide them while sowing seeds, but let them do it. Children love to play in the dirt and the best thing is they are very washable. Let them get dirty.
- Let them participant in watering – If there is one thing a child loves in the summertime, it’s a water hose. Let them water their seedlings, and have fun getting drenched. Getting reigns on the water hose is one thing that will surely keep them interested and looking forward to getting out to the garden the next day.
- Let them harvest what they grow – There is nothing better than letting children get in there and dig up the carrots they have grown, or potatoes, or letting them pluck that first cluster of cherry tomatoes off the vine. Letting them harvest what they have grown gives them a sense of accomplishment, and they will be eager to garden again in the future.
There is an unlimited amount of activities that will help to keep children interested in growing their own vegetables. Get creative with ideas on keeping them coming back to their garden each day. The most important thing is that you are spending some high quality time with your children. That’s one of the many pleasures of having a garden in the first place!
If you have suggestions for getting your children involved in vegetable gardening, please feel free to share them in the comments section below.