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Gardening with Children

By: Bridget Rotman, Children’s House Directress

Gardening is a wonderful way for children to connect with nature and nurture living things. It provides learning opportunities when studying parts of seeds, flowers and plants. Children love to dig in the dirt and get great exercise while doing so. We are fortunate to have classroom gardens where our children can be part of the growing process. They have ownership of the gardens as well as the food and flowers produced in them. We have had the beautiful opportunity of planting seeds and watching them sprout inside. We transfer them into our garden when weather allows. We watch them strengthen and grow. Our classroom gardens are the place to be in late summer and early fall. The children cut the flowers we grew to do flower arranging work or use our abundant basil to make pesto. They also love digging up and scrubbing a carrot to crunch on. Passers by enjoy plucking off cherry tomatoes to snack on as much as the children in the classroom enjoy picking, cleaning and eating them. Our gardens are beautiful extensions of our classrooms and the children thrive in them.

Below are some wonderful tips for gardening with children.

Give them their own garden beds. Whether you use raised beds, containers or ground plots, be sure to give each child his or her own separate plot. Keep it small, very small for young kids. Put their plots right in the middle of the action, with the best soil and light. Set them up for success.

Reuse the sandbox. If your children have grown past their sandbox years, consider converting the old sandbox to a garden bed. This gives the child continued ‘ownership’ of a familiar space and encourages a sense of responsibility to the gardening project.

Give them serious tools. Cheap plastic child’s gardening tools are worse than no tools at all; they break easily and frustrate the user. It can be hard to locate good tools for kids, especially work gloves that fit a small hand. With some garden tools, like a hoe or spade, you can easily saw the handle shorter. Let them use your tools if need be; in this way you’re acknowledging the importance of the work they’re doing.

Engage them through the entire process, from seed to table. Children learn better when they understand the context of their activity. They will learn that gardening can be fun, but far more than idle play; they are contributing to the family well-being. Besides planting and nurturing their garden beds, be sure they alone do the harvesting and preparation of their crop for the table, no matter how modest the offering.

Start from seeds. While it’s a convenient shortcut to buy starters, children will learn more by seeing the growing process as it begins with seeds. The care given to sprouting seeds and nurturing the young seedling are a valuable part of the gardening experience.

When all else fails, make a scarecrow. The best time to engage children in gardening is when they’re in the mood for this activity. If their attention wanes, or the garden tasks become boring, let them build a scarecrow. This activity is still a contribution to the gardening effort and adds another layer of interest to the garden scene. It also reminds the child of the importance of the crop.

 

Ruffing Montessori School   |   3380 Fairmount Blvd Cleveland Heights, OH 44118   |   Phone: (216) 321-7571   |   Hours 8am-4pm M-F   |   After Hours Phone (216) 321-0913