In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
Sunflowers and morning glories are fun and easy for kids to plant.
If you want your children to inherit your love of gardening, start early and keep the activities age-appropriate.
Little ones are naturally curious about everything, and they'll grab a seed or bulb as quickly as anything else. As soon as a child can toddle, he can drop a bulb in a hole, and very soon, take the trowel into his own hands. A hand that can make a fist can grab a sunflower seed and press it into the soil. Make it a habit to take playpens, swings, and, later, blankets into the garden; what kids see, they want to do.
For the youngest, to see you garden gives them one more behavior to mimic, and what could be more positive? By the time children are four or five, you can set up a trellis for their cardinal climber beans, morning glories, and moonflowers. Teach children not to put seeds (or anything else that you don't give them for dinner) into their mouths. After all, garden lessons translate into life at any age.
Gardening with children in school settings has definite benefits for everyone involved. The teacher and usually the entire grade gets added activities, the school PTA gets a great project to support if asked, and you get to spend time at your child's school during instruction time. Best of all, you become part of the educational process and certainly will learn as much as you teach.
Offer an hour a week and do some of these projects: plant a lettuce garden in flowerpots, force narcissus bulbs, sprout a sweet potato and let the vine grow around the classroom. In upper grades, the class can maintain a salad garden for the cafeteria and take on tree plantings and other beautification projects for the whole school.
When gardening with young children, use pictures whenever possible to show them what they are doing now and what the results will be. Choose fast-growing plants, like rooting heart-shaped philodendron vine or radish seeds, so results are within reach. Let Girl Scouts and similar groups work as a team to grow flowers for the local nursing home or to grow gourds for crafts projects. Be sure to reinforce each garden project with a life skills lesson: measure the growth of vines with a yardstick, keep notes about seed progress and care routines, and let the children keep a journal of the sights and smells of gardening.
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