By: Stephanie Shabangu, Penfield Children’s Center
Planting a garden can be a great way to teach your child where our food comes from and how it grows from a seed into a plant. It can also help a picky eater try a variety of nutritious foods and take pride in watching her garden grow.
When planting a garden with your child, find space in your existing garden that she can plant herself. This will allow you to plant the flowers and/or veggies you’re interested in growing, but gives your child freedom to pick her own plants and not worry if her side doesn’t have the nicely lined up rows like yours.
Kid-sized gardening gloves, a small rake and trowel will help your little one as she digs, plants and weeds.
It’s also helpful to:
- Allow children to choose what they plant. Give them a handful of different seed options and see what they pick. It can also be fun to plant vegetables that create a meal, such as a “lasagna garden” that includes vegetables such as tomatoes and zucchini or a “taco garden” with peppers, onions and lettuce.
- Watch for poison plants. Plants such as morning glory (Ipomoea), rosary pea (Abrus) and sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) should not be planted in a kid-friendly garden. If your child is interested in planting something that you’re unfamiliar with, reach out to a local garden store for advice.
- Avoid planting spikey plants. Roses, raspberry and blackberry bushes have thorns or are sharp. Encourage your child to pick plants she can touch, that won’t irritate her skin.
- Teach your child about bugs while you garden. Worms are good for the soil and can be kept in the garden. Make sure to warn her about insects that can bite, such as fire ants and try to plant your garden in an area that is free from critters that can bite or sting.
- Pick age-appropriate jobs for your child. A toddler might have fun watering the plants, but not quite have the skills yet to pull weeds.
- Get creative! Encourage your child to decorate her garden. Practice writing letters and words by labeling plants with garden markers and add stepping stones. It can also be fun to create a fairy house for the garden. Gather sticks, pieces of bark, small stones, acorns, etc. and assemble a small house that can be placed under the plants as they grow. This touch of magic is sure to ignite your little one’s imagination.
Another idea is to plant your child’s garden in a sandbox. Acting as a large planter, the sandbox can be placed anywhere in the yard. Help your child plant a rainbow of flowers and watch how she delights in this fun, recycled project!
Do you have a family garden? What do you enjoy planting?