Gardening can reduce stress at a time when many people’s mental health could use a boost. It’s a soothing, almost meditative activity that even very young children can enjoy. It gives them confidence and knowledge to know that they can plant a seed, nurture, and care for it, and see it grow into something that can be colorful, fragrant, and even edible.
Don’t think you need a big back yard to cultivate a garden. Whether you have a window-sill or a private backyard, here’s a guide for fun indoor and outdoor projects to get kids enthusiastic about gardening.
Plants and Seeds
You can purchase seeds or small plants. Many outdoor garden centers are open. Please keep in mind however, this is not the time to leisurely stroll about a garden center admiring pretty flowers and sniffing fragrant plants.
First, visit your local garden center online. Many are set up with websites featuring stunning plants and flowers that are in-season and make online ordering or call ahead ordering a priority – along with curbside pickup. With all that is going on, make safety a priority. If your garden center does not offer online or call-ahead ordering, please be socially-responsible and wear a mask at all times and physically-distance at the store.
With the help of your kids, decide what everyone wants to grow; vegetables, flowers, herbs, or a combination of each. Consider printing out the pictures from the store’s website or other online gardening sites and have the kids sort them by flowers, herbs, or vegetables and glue them into a little notebook.
Choose an assortment of small flowering plants, starter vegetable packs, and seeds. Seeds that grow super easy indoors are parsley, beans, radishes, peas, sweet alyssum, and nasturtiums. Plants such as basil, cilantro, dill, oregano, rosemary, sage, and parsley grow well in small containers or outdoors.
Think about the food that your family enjoys and which herbs you would likely use when cooking or what items are used to make a salad. Your child will likely be more excited about creating a garden if they are able to cook and taste what they grew. Growing salad fixings such as tomatoes, lettuce, and cucumbers can take your child all the way through the planting process to preparing their own salad.
Another fun gardening activity is planting grass in the shape of your child’s handprint. Have your kids press their hand flat into a large flower pot (if indoors) or outside in a dedicated area of your home garden. Make sure the outline of their hand is visible. Just sprinkle a good amount of grass seed to fill the inside of the outline, and with some diligent watering, a lush green handprint appears. Kids can maintain the handprint all season long with consistent trimming and weeding.
This is where everyone can get creative. You don’t have to buy expensive flower pots. Think empty juice boxes, different size jars, (kids will get to see the roots twisting and turning in the dirt), water bottles, plastic yogurt cups, egg cartons, and plastic soda bottle bottoms are all possibilities.
Be sure to punch drainage holes in the bottoms and have the kids paint and decorate the containers.
Packaged potting soil mix is the best to use indoors. Some even contain slow-release fertilizer and most are sterilized so that they do not contain weed seeds, insects, or diseases that could flourish inside your home.
Additional Gardening Supplies
Kids will have fun decorating and writing the name of each plant on garden markers (popsicle sticks and plastic silverware work great).
Watering cans (try plastic water bottles or milk jugs) and fertilizer (liquid or slow-release) are also necessary supplies.
Foster a “Budding” Scientist
Older kids can create a chart to keep track of each plant from the day they planted, to when they first noticed a sprout, and take measurements each week to determine which plant grew the fastest and which grew the tallest. Remember the notebook I mentioned above? They can expand on that notebook (which is filled with flower, vegetable and herb photos), to include this type of data for each of the plants.
I started gardening when I was a child, and it’s a hobby and passion of mine that has continued well into my adulthood ever since I planted my first seed. Gardening creates a sense of self-reliance in kids. It gives them a sense of accomplishment and an appreciation for nature. It’s something, they too, can take with them well into adulthood and one day, pass on to their children.