Growing plants in the garden is a healthy activity to get children involved in. Young children can help adults look after plants and older children can be responsible for their own patch of garden or some pots.
Young children helping plant a tree Image courtesy of Pixabay
Reasons to encourage children to be involved in gardening
will often eat the vegetables they were involved in growing
have something to talk about
I still recall being very impressed when a school friend brought a plate of sliced potatoes cooked in their jackets and spread with butter along to our Christmas party. He had grown them himself. I don't remember what anyone else contributed to any of our school Christmas parties.
Children will enjoy the sweet flavour of tomatoes grown in the back yard. Image by Marie Vonow
How to get children involved in gardening
Toddlers can plants bulbs and large seeds under close supervision of an adult. Ensure they don't put bulbs or seeds in their mouth. Make sure they wash their hands afterwards.
Toddlers can also water plants with the help of an adult. Make sure they don't flood freshly planted seeds or seedlings.
Older children can plant seeds, bulbs and seedlings.
Older children can also learn to grow plants from cuttings.
Easy plants to grow The plants that are easy to grow will depend on the climate and soil in your area. Your local nursery should be able to give you advice and sometimes the local newspaper has a gardening column.
The following are easy to grow from seed where I live:
Back yard silverbeet and tomato plants Image by Marie Vonow
Some plants are easier to grow from seedlings than seed. This is particularly the case with plants which have tiny seeds. Sometimes you can buy a punnet which contains a variety of plants and this can be interesting for children.
Look out for seedlings or established plants in pots at plant nurseries, hardware stores, markets, fetes and sometimes at supermarkets. Some thrift shops also sell plants and it's worth keeping your eyes open at garage sales.
Herb and vegetable seedlings at plant nursery Image by Marie Vonow
If older children want to earn a few dollars and you are planning a garage sale they might like to grow some seedlings from seed to sell.
Safety in the garden Gardening is a healthy hobby but safety, especially when you are involving the children, must be kept in mind. Here are a few safety tips:
Ensure youngsters don't eat tomato leaves, rhubarb leaves, bulbs or other poisonous parts of plants.
Watch out for bees especially if your child is allergic to them.
Provide suitably sized tools for children to use.
Remember sunscreen, hats and long sleeved shirts and trousers to avoid sunburn. Garden in the cooler hours in summer, better for the plants as well as people.
Buy a pair of child sized gardening gloves to protect little hands.
Wash hands thoroughly after time in the garden.
Don't leave rakes and other tools lying around where children may step on them or trip over them.
Teach your children to be careful when handling pots etc which could harbour spiders.
Clear away tall grass and rubbish which could be hiding places for snakes, spiders and other creatures.
Be aware that pesticides and fertilisers can be very toxic even if they are organic and made from natural products. Keep them away from young children. Read instructions carefully and explain safety precautions if you decide to teach older children how these products are used.
Always store any products used in the garden out of reach of children.
If you would like your children to have the benefit of gardening but you just aren't a gardener, perhaps you can enlist the help of another family member or a friend. Gardening activities are excellent for helping children bond with other people.