We encourage our kids to finish their plates and to at least try every food we offer them. I hate to waste food! How about you? It makes a big difference to a kid when they are allowed to be part of the process of their own dinner. They love to harvest food. It teaches them about where food comes from and what a valuable resource it is. And it's nice to be able to remind them that they grew that nutritious food.
2.) Gardening gives kids a new skill
It never ceases to amaze me how much money people will spend on activities for their kids such as dance or music lessons, hockey, gymnastics and all the rest. Not that there's anything wrong with these activities. It's just that there's cheaper ways to give your kids a new skill than enrolling them in a million activities. Not to mention all the driving involved. Anyone can get into gardening, and unlike so many other activities, it's something you can teach yourself and then teach your kids. The teacher in me loves being the one to instruct my own kids.
I could get a task done so much quicker and easier without the kids help. Two to three times faster. At times, it's just plain tedious watching them slowly stick a seed in the dirt. But then I have to remind myself what a wonder it is that those seeds will actually grow and thrive. And my kids get to experience this. Seeing Esther's fat little hands pop a seed into a hole and cover it up with dirt is rewarding for me as well. It sharpens her fine motor skills too.
4.) It's worth the mess kids make
Kids are messy. They like getting dirty. Be prepared. Sticky hair, dirty hands, filthy clothes. This is reality. The trade off is you can always hose them off and quite honestly, kids do need to be allowed to get dirty sometimes. My husband seems to disagree but it's true. He nearly bursts a blood vessel every time he sees Esther eat, especially a drippy egg. Anyhow, on with the rubber boots and play clothes. I just keep reminding myself that these years pass by so quickly and I need to savor the moment. Besides, at least they're getting dirty outdoors. And I'd take dirt any day over Playdoh or bubbles!
5.) Gardening will make my kids better neighbors, better co-workers and a better citizen
If you ask other parents what their child rearing goals are they'll most likely mutter something about self-esteem or to make their kids childhood the happiest possible. I think this explains the huge birthday parties with over 100 guests fully catered with bounce houses and waterslides. (Bad idea). What really makes kids happy? To feel productive and useful while putting others needs before their own. That's my goal. To instill in my kids a sense of putting others first. They get to share the surplus from the garden with friends, family and neighbors. And the joy Emma (5) gets from walking a few peppers, cucumbers, zucchini and tomatoes across the street to share? Priceless.
True, gardening doesn't always seem to save us money. But once all the initial costs are covered, if you keep it up year after year, you'll notice a huge dent in your grocery bill. Not to mention you're eating fresh and organic food from your own backyard. This is a great opportunity to teach kids that everything costs money, so when you can save in one area (food) you get to splurge in others (trip to the zoo or waterpark).
7.) Gardening teaches a valuable lesson in patience
We live in a "got to have it right now culture." Delayed gratification is not a term todays' kids are familiar with. From toddler on up, we all want it, and we want it right now. Uggs, iPad, Northface, cell phone all in elementary school...sure. And yet, patient people are better off. They are happier people. You don't just plant a seed and get a tomato the next day. You have to wait. Gardening teaches this invaluable life lesson to children. It's a ripe opportunity to instill in them a sense of hard work paying off in the long term, to the benefit of all.
College is heavily emphasized in America. Everyone wants their kids to go to college to become a doctor or a lawyer. But we need good plumbers, electricians and car mechanics just as much as the other. It's about finding the right niche. The sooner you find out where your child is gifted, the better choices they'll be able to make in high school and college. Not every kid is meant to go to college, we need good people who work with their hands. If my girls want to go to trade school to become car mechanics; I'll be thrilled for them.
- Some crops that are really fun for kids are zucchini and cucumbers because once you get a small one they grow so fast, even overnight they get huge. This is fun for kids. And even kids seem to appreciate how tasty cherry tomatoes are.
- Don't have a big back yard? Grow some lettuce in pots. They'll love it!
What's your experience with working with kids in the garden? What have you learned?