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Advice Old MacDonald Had a Garden: How to Start Gardening with Kids

We really need to teach our children about gardens. Kids are born ready to interact with the world.

Before long they become afraid of ‘dirt’, instead glued to the iPad and lacking exercise. Teaching them how to grow plants is not only fun, it’s physically good for them and mentally stimulating too.

Children who understand and enjoy nature are more likely to grow into environment-respecting adults and that’s certainly something the world needs more of. You’ll sow a planet-saving seed of your own when you introduce your child to growing.

Why You Should Garden with Your Kids

Gardens are fertile learning environments for little people. Studies show that gardening helps boost mental development, makes kids more resilient and promotes confidence.

A Royal Horticultural Society study of ten schools found that children involved in gardening projects became more active, thought on their feet, solved problems, overcame fears and were generally more inquisitive students – but that’s not all it’s good for.

When your child is physically exposed to microbes in the soil it strengthens their young immune system and helps prevent allergies. Kids who grow up on farms have fewer allergies and asthma problems, and a recent study in China indicated that spending an extra 45 minutes outside each day reduced the risk of myopia too.

How to Start Gardening with Kids

Gardening with kids means mess, so dress them in old clothes and don’t freak out about smeared faces or wet knees. There’s nothing dirty about soil.

If space is tight use flowerpots, containers or a window-box filled with shop-bought compost. If you have a garden, dig a metre square patch and let your child have it to plant seeds and search for worms. It’s worth buying a small trowel and gloves so your child can get properly stuck in.

What Plants Are Best for Gardening with Kids?

It’s best to use quick and easy flower seeds like sunflowers and wildflowers to begin with, as little people have little patience. These seeds are cheap and quick to germinate.

For veggies choose quick-growing foods like impressive runner beans and grow them up the fence by tying stems to a trellis. Cress is another great favourite that grows quickly. You can’t go wrong with food they’ll love to eat, such as strawberries and cherry tomatoes. These are best bought as small plants. If you’re feeling adventurous plant a pumpkin seed a few months before Halloween so you can carve it together. You may even find kids that routinely swerve fruit and veg at the dinner table will be more inclined to try stuff they’ve grown themselves.

If you don’t have much success with seeds or you want instant excitement then try a herb patch or container. Fill it with hardy herbs like rosemary, sage, parsley, thyme, oregano, chives and mint. All of these can be bought from the supermarket or garden centre and put straight in the soil. Smell and identify different herbs with your child and include them in your cooking. Try rosemary on roast potatoes, oregano on pizza, and sage with chicken.

Flowers and Other Outdoor Activities

Another great idea is to plant bulbs in autumn that flower in early spring such as daffodils and alliums. This helps children understand the concept of the changing seasons.

Once they have the taste for growing, you can add in other environmentally friendly activities such as composting, cutting a hedgehog hole in your fence, feeding the birds and watching for bees. Did you know tired bees can be rejuvenated with sugar water? My six year old loves holding a spoon of sweetened water near a cold, tired bee and watching it suck up the drink.

We need to let our children enjoy gardening. It helps them feel a part of the world and in touch with the natural environment. We can’t sit perched on top of the earth separated by concrete and wash our hands of essential microbes so we’re virtually sterile. Our health will suffer for it. We need contact with the soil.

Not only does getting outside in the garden boost kids’ health, it also increases their mental abilities. There’s nothing to lose. Let your kid get plastered in mud. Let them eat dirt and soak the muddy clothes afterwards. They can only benefit from contact with nature.

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