Planting Seeds for Success

Planting seeds and growing a garden is the perfect activity to squeeze in some quality time with your kids, and beautify your yard or window box while you’re at it. No matter where you live, if you can get some sun, you and your kids can start a garden of your very own. So what, you ask, could my child possibly learn by digging around in the dirt? Actually, quite a lot!

  • Healthy Eating: Half the fun of planting vegetables in a garden is getting to sample them when they are ripe. If your kids help a head of lettuce or a zucchini grow from a tiny seed, they’ll be much more excited to give it a try at the dinner table. Plus, homegrown veggies always taste better!
  • Responsibility: Tending a garden takes time and attention – much like owning a pet, but on a smaller scale. By putting your kids in charge of a section of your garden (or even just one plant), they’ll learn the importance of regular watering, regular weeding and more. Plus, they’ll be even more excited as their very own plant sprouts into a flower or vegetable as a result of his efforts.
  • Patience: Seeds take their own sweet time to emerge from the ground, and even longer to bloom or grow into edible vegetables. Your child will love checking on the daily changes of the plants, but will need to learn the patience to let the plants fully develop. If your child gets too antsy and plucks a veggie or fruit from the vine too early, don’t worry – that thick-skinned baby watermelon will be a sour (but harmless) lesson in patience!
  • Science: Kids have a natural fascination with exploring the wonders of nature – including, unfortunately, bugs. Gardening provides a less creepy-crawly outlet for that scientific wonder. As they help care for a garden and watch the plants sprout, your kids will be learning important science lessons firsthand – without even realizing it! To boost the learning, help your child turn the garden into a mini-experiment. For example, if you plant some flowers in the regular soil found naturally in your yard and use store-bought planting soil for others, will they grow differently? Work together to measure the plants’ progress and chart the results.

But what sort of gardening is your youngster ready for?

  • Tiny Green Thumbs (ages 3-5): For the youngest of outdoor explorers, you’ll need to lead the gardening experience. Your little one will love helping you press the flowers and seeds in the ground, but may not quite be ready to take the lead on caring for the plants as they grow. Guide your tiny gardener through certain small steps like digging, watering and pulling weeds. Just be careful when handing over the hose – kids have the tendency to overwater and you just might end up with a giant mud puddle. And keep an eye on overzealous young weed pullers…sometimes it’s easy to mistake your plant for a weed when it is young.
  • Grade-School Gardeners (ages 5+): For slightly older explorers, gardening requires less supervision. Work together to plan out your garden and choose appropriate plants based on your climate and soil type. To figure out what flowers and veggies will grow, take a trip to the local gardening store and chat with a local expert (we recommend beans and squash for kid-friendly veggies). Pick an area for the plants to grow and turn the soil together. Then, step back and let your child take the lead on planting and caring for the plants. Make sure she knows the appropriate amount of water and how to remove weeds so that your plants will flourish!

Tips and Tricks to Get Started

  • Avoid pesticides completely – they just aren’t kid-friendly.
  • If you have impatient kids, consider planting a mix of sprouted plants and seeds so that there will be changes to watch right away.
  • Planting squash? To wow your friends, try inserting one of the young sprouts into a plastic water bottle (without detaching the stem). The squash will continue to grow inside the bottle and, when you harvest it, your friends will be baffled about how you fit it into the bottle!

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