Teaching Kids to Garden
April is Kid’s Gardening Month. From facility tours for high school and college horticulture students to speaking at elementary schools and helping with school gardens, we know that teaching kids about gardening is very important. Over the past few weeks you might’ve noticed a new area pop up at our store in Mason, WV. We’re still putting the finishing touches on it, but we now have a place for kids to pot up their own little seedling to take home.
As I’ve said before, one of my earliest memories as a child is following behind my grandfather as he tilled the garden. Gardening is a skill that is fundamental to humanity. Why it isn't taught in schools today as a core part of the curriculum is a topic for another post. That being said, how can we teach gardening to kids? Here are some tips to help you get started.
Like any subject in school, you have to start with the basics. What are plants, what do they need to grow, and why are they important? Something as simple as a germination test of seed can teach this. This is a good time for experimentation, test your garden’s soil, plant some seeds, or go on a nature hike. All of these experiences help kids learn the science behind plant growth.
Let Them Help
Next, let them help in the garden. (You also get some free labor.) Growing a garden takes patience and a good work ethic. Something that is in short supply today. One job that I remember was plucking off potato bugs and dropping them in a jar of water. Of course, you want to keep safety in mind. Turning a youngster loose with a sharp hoe might not be a good idea until they are a bit older. There are some great articles out there on when to give kids their first pocket knives, etc. Again, that's a topic for another day.
Room to Grow
Eventually, turn them loose with their own area to grow things. Maybe it is a spot in a flower bed, their own raised bed, or a section of a larger garden. The key is to start small. We all know what it's like to bite off more than we can chew. Let them grow whatever they want! Flowers and corn? Sure! It's their place to experiment.
If you’ve never had a failure as a gardener, then you’re doing something wrong. We’ve all taken on projects that were too big, had plants die for no reason, and had an area get overgrown with weeds. Learning to recover from failure is as much a part of gardening as it is life. There's something important in that.
In conclusion, gardening is an art and it takes years to master. That’s the fun of learning! It also passes along skills and morals that can be applied widely throughout life. Do your child a favor and let them play in the dirt!
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