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Do you think gardening with kids is a great experience, but are afraid they’ll make a mess of it? I work in my garden with kids ages one to five and I have helpful tips for gardening with kids. Click here to see more about how to get started gardening with kids.
Gardening with preschoolers
Gardening with preschoolers and gardening with toddlers is a ton of fun. I LOVE watching them learn and I love learning with them. This is our 7th season and we are loving it even more today than when we started. This year, we’ve already grown over 400 pounds of food. Over the time since we started, we’ve grown over 3,000 pounds! Toddlers and preschoolers growing food, lots of food! if you want to see how we got started, click here.
The younger the child, the more help they need, but there are many things small children can do. At Little Sprouts, we try to grow as much of our own food as possible. It’s super cool to spend time outside in the garden. Fresh air and sunshine are amazing for a mood booster, physical exercise, and learning experience.
Kids LOVE working in the garden. My kids plant everything we grow. We grow tomatoes, hot peppers, onions, garlic, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, carrots, squashes, melons, herbs, pretty much anything you can think of. We have fruit trees, bushes, asparagus, strawberries and so much more.
When I did some research into our food supply, I realized it was way past time to do something about what I was feeding those I loved. At the time, there was not a lot of pure food available in my area and it was really expensive. Now it’s a lot more readily available and that’s great. I knew we could save a ton of money and really know what was in and on our food if we grew it, so I set out to learn how.
How to start a garden with kids
I attended a great training put on by Smart Start, the Health Department and Cherokee Nation. I learned so much! My garden mentor Doug spoke words right into my soul and changed my life in that class. I also bought and checked out any books from the library and read everything I could find to learn more about how to grow and what to grow.
Gardening child development
I have learned so many valuable lessons from the garden. We failed at a ton of things. The earth teaches us many kinds of lessons. Patience, how to handle disappointment, hope, humility, and faith are a few things I didn’t expect to learn. Handling failure is a great lesson for all of us too. We learned to listen to our soil and nature and to give it what it needs.
Core curriculum in the garden
We learn math, science, oh boy, the science, emerging literacy skills, social skills, movement and coordination, language, listening, fine motor skills, time, vocabulary, geographic concepts, animal and plant needs and development, physical elements, seasons and weather, taking care of the earth, sound, and so many other things. These are all prerequisites to learning in K-8.
It’s so important to remember we are building a foundation for future learning. Don’t rush kids to learn too early. Teaching kids things they are developmentally ready to learn is key. The garden, and other activities like it, open up a whole world of learning without stress or pressure to perform. Kids don’t even realize they are learning. Click here to learn more about core curriculum.
There are a few things you’ll need to plant and grow a garden with kids.
Be patient with kids in the garden
Gardening with kids and without them, requires a lot of patience. When you decide to grow with kids, be prepared for mistakes and setbacks. These tips for gardening with kids will save you a lot of heartache. Kids will be excited about the garden if you are excited about it. They will want to explore it if you are open to letting them. Your curiosity will be contagious.
This is our 6th season of gardening with kids at Little Sprouts. We have learned what we like to eat, what grows well here (most of the time), what plants look like, and to plant extra for the bugs, animals and weather.
Also, kids are going to make mistakes. When they do, remember you do too sometimes, and they are just learning. Seedlings will get snapped off while they are planting. Things will get pulled that aren’t weeds or aren’t ripe. If you are planting with a bunch of kids like I do, you’re outnumbered and sometimes they will pick a bowl full of green tomatoes while you are chasing them and saying red, red.
Over time, though, they will learn what a ripe strawberry looks like and how awful an unripe one taste. They will learn to be careful. They will learn innumerable secrets that will last them a lifetime.
Be prepared to grow a children’s garden
Gardening with kids is no different than any other activity for preschoolers. Be prepared! This tip works for gardening with kids and every other kid’s activity. If you think you can take all the kids outside and then decide what you’re going to do, it’s going to turn into chaos fast! Make sure you have a plan of what you are going to do that day and have all of your supplies ready. Then you can lessen some of the chaos.
How to plant a garden for kids
You can’t give seeds to all of the kids at once. This is a super helpful tip for gardening with kids. Sometimes everyone doesn’t fit around the area where there are ripe veggies. There are so many times kids will have to learn to wait their turn. What a wonderfully valuable lesson for life!
Developmentally, kids 4 and under are like those birds on Finding Nemo that eat up everything screaming mine, mine, mine! It’s wonderful to see them sharing and taking turns in the garden and learning that their friends want a turn too.
Start small when you gardening with kids
The best tips for gardening with kids is don’t try to build 50 raised beds and fill them all in one year. If you want to grow a ton of food, start small with one box and work your way up to a lot of garden beds. Doing too much at once will overwhelm you. Kids can learn just as much in one 3 x 3-foot bed as they can in 50 3 x 10 beds. It’s the doing that teaches, not the volume.
You have to learn skills like how to store produce (click to see tips), how to preserve produce, and how to cook and use produce. Those things take time. If you plant a giant garden with kids, fill it to the brim and bring in 500 pounds of food all at once, what are you going to do with it all? It’s all a process and patience is necessary. Take one step at a time and you’ll get to where you want to be.
Gardening with kids is so fun and so rewarding. I can’t tell you how blessed I’ve been watching these little minds grow and flourish! I’ve been nourished with the food, built my confidence in growing, nourished these precious growing bodies with the food, and so much more in this garden.
It’s the most all-encompassing teaching tool I have at Little Sprouts. The garden gives so much. I encourage you to try to grow something with kids as soon as you possibly can! There are so many benefits!
You’ll learn your own tips for gardening with kids in no time. Come back and share them with me for my children’s garden.
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