Gardening helps children learn about the world, forge bonds with their fellow gardeners (family) and feel a sense of accomplishment, all while having a lot of fun. Children also learn patience (having to wait while plants grow), responsibility and caring for another living creature, and loss when plants die. Children will also learn where food really comes from. With all of these benefits, why not start a garden that your children can be a part of?
To get your children interested in gardening, let them choose what they’d like to grow (see “Great Plants for Kids” below), but make sure that there are some easy plants mixed in that will succeed. Success will to keep their interest. in gardening And if one of the plants fails to grow well, talk about what could have gone wrong. Look at the symptoms of its weakness. Did a pest eat its leaves? Did it not get enough sunlight? That failure can turn into a learning experience.
Use the garden as a teaching opportunity. Teach kids all about worms in your compost bin, and teach them about other insects and animals that visit your balcony. These teachings might become a lesson for you, as well. Are you looking at a bee or a wasp? What is the difference between the two? Are they both beneficial to the garden? Be prepared to answer questions, but don’t be afraid to say you don’t know. Just do some research together to learn the right answer.
Working in the Garden
If you want your kids to stay interested in gardening, let them garden at their leisure – forcing them to do chores in the garden may diminish the fun gardening experience. A small balcony container garden is beneficial because you won’t have to worry about making them mow the lawn or pull up weeds for hours while they’d rather be playing.
When you’re working in the garden, make sure your children are safe. Depending on the age of your child, you will need to pay more or less attention to what he or she is doing. Make sure that young children do not put anything into their mouths (especially fertilizers and sprays). Make sure garden tools are safe for children, and are not sharp or rusty. And also watch to make sure your children aren’t having a reaction to one of your potentially poisonous plants.
Having Fun in the Garden
Gardens are great places for crafts. Make your own trellises, paint a plant container, make DIY plant markers and other crafts. Fun projects include: taking time-lapse photos, collecting leaves, making a gardening scrapbook or journal, creating a worm bin and seeing which plants grow the fastest.
Note: Make sure you grow plants that will thrive in your conditions. Nothing is more disappointing than scraggly plants that just barely survive.
- Tall, quick-growing plants, such as sunflowers
- Plants with colorful flowers or foliage, such as zinnias, coleus, morning glories, angel’s wings (Caladium bicolor)
- Plants that smell good, such as rosemary
- Edible plants, such as tomatoes, lettuce, etc.
- Plants that move, such as the Mimosa pudica fern, which moves when touched, and venus flytraps, which are carnivorous
- Plants that attract butterflies and hummingbirds
- Plants that germinate quickly, such as vegetables