If you're looking for an engaging outdoor activity that allows the whole family to participate, consider a family garden. From selecting your vegetables and flowers, preparing the earth and planting, and finally harvesting, gardening can be a wonderful way to involve your children in a healthy hobby you can all enjoy.
Life Lessons of Gardening
Lisa Taylor, Children's Garden Director at Seattle Tilth, a non-profit community gardening organization, has a unique take on why kids should garden. "With little people, they're a lot closer to the ground; they have an intimate relationship with the earth. Anything we can do to bring that non-descript terra firma to life is good."
Along with the fun of getting dirty, gardening helps children learn valuable lessons about patience as they wait for vegetables to grow, responsibility as they see how necessary their care is to the garden, and even loss when flowers die at the end of a season. "They learn about nurturing a life and what it takes to keep something alive," says Amy Gifford, an education associate for the National Gardening Association. Gifford extols the value of exercise as children physically work in the garden, that families learn to work together and share, and that gardening helps build a child's senses.
"One of the most important things about [vegetable] gardening is understanding where food comes from," says Gifford. She says young children are fascinated in seeing food when it's pulled from the ground, and they notice the similarities and differences from their garden vegetables and produce from the grocery store.
How Does Your Garden Grow?
If you've decided to involve your kids in gardening, you need to make some decisions—most importantly where and what your child will be gardening. "The essentials for a children's garden are clear paths, narrow beds, and edible plants," says Taylor. "Kids should be able to reach across the beds. They can learn where people go and where plants go."