Kids and dirt, trust us, it’s a good thing. Add a little sunshine, fresh air, and water and you’ve got gold. Gardening with your kids provides endless opportunities for learning, bonding, exercise, and even homegrown food.
Learning opportunities found in the garden are almost limitless. Practice math skills by counting seeds, leaves, flowers or ladybugs, or multiply garden rows to find the area of a raised bed. Dig into science by investigating plant parts, photosynthesis and nutrition. Try making ties to literature with favorite garden-themed books like The Secret Garden or The Curious Garden.
Of course, the joys of getting into the garden with your kids go even further. The taste of sweet strawberries or a salad of freshly-picked lettuce and cherry tomatoes right from your own garden is delightful. Bring a squash into the kitchen, pick a recipe, and cook it up together as a family. Kids have been proven to eat more vegetables when they have a hand in growing, picking and cooking them. Encourage them to “eat a rainbow,” or make a goal to eat the alphabet as inspired by Lois Ehlert’s Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z.
How do you engage your kids if the world of gardening? Here’s a three-part exercise to start the ball rolling: First, be okay with getting dirty. Get some soil under your fingernails and maybe even between your toes. After all, studies have shown that the microbes in soil are actually good for our physical and mental health. Second, get down low. Your child may be knee-high to a grasshopper, so get down and see things from their level and let them see you eye-to-eye. There’s a whole new world down there you may have been missing. Lastly, make it a routine. If you need to schedule garden time to be part of your day, do it. Remember that fifteen or thirty minutes, or even an hour a day if you can fit it in, can be action-packed with exploring, laughing and de-stressing.
Every day is a new possibility in the garden. Just like your child, the garden is constantly growing and changing. As summer comes to an end and the kids prepare to go back to school, let the garden be a break from the structure of the classroom and the office. Step outside with your kids to connect with nature and your family.