Almost every child is a natural born gardener. From the time they're little, God seems to have created children with the ingredients necessary to garden. What child doesn't love to dig in the dirt, play with water, and explore? Therefore, teaching your child how to garden will be as easy as child's play. Even preschool age children can learn important lessons from this outside "classroom." But how do you make your child's garden experience a successful one? No matter how green your thumb may be, you can help your child discover the joy of gardening with the following tips below:
• Pick a spot in your yard or existing garden with an equal amount of shade and sunlight. Remember, this is your child's garden and it might not look perfect. Purchase a fancy border to set off the space or make your own from stepping stones or bricks. The amount of area should reflect your child's age and size. First-time gardeners should start with a smaller area (4' x 6'). If your child has outgrown your sandbox, fill it with dirt and convert into a garden bed.
• Include your child in the trip to the greenhouse or nursery. Let him "own" his garden by choosing flowers and vegetables he would like to plant. Limit his selection and help him choose short-growing season plants from this proven, easy-to-grow and fun-to-harvest list for children:
Flowers – Sunflowers, nasturtiums, four o'clocks, and marigolds
Vegetables – Bush beans, carrots, potatoes, zucchini, radishes, cherry tomatoes, snow peas, lettuce, spinach, pumpkins, cucumbers, peppers, and squash
Herbs – Parsley, sage, cilantro, mint, dill, basil, and chives
You may also want to try planting a garden of all one color or of all one vegetable (pick your child's favorite).
• Purchase or make child-size gardening tools – A plastic, child-size wheelbarrow makes weeding and harvesting gardens easy for little hands. However, don't purchase plastic rakes, spades, hoes, or trowels (they break easily and will frustrate younger gardeners). If serious, child-size tools can't be found or made, it's better to let your child use adult tools.
• Plant seeds as well as seedlings to help your child learn more about the growing process as discussed in the fourth grade science LIFEPAC® curriculum from Alpha Omega Publications. The care required in handling young plants from seeds exposes your child to a deeper understanding of the life cycle of plants.
• Involve your child in the entire process of planting, weeding, cultivating, and harvesting. Visit the garden daily to enjoy its rewards and let your child experience the final fulfillment of bringing his produce to the family table. Older children will also enjoy the financial reward of selling extra produce at a local farmer's market in your city.
• Encourage your child to share the "fruits" of his labor. When friends or family come to visit, give them the "garden tour" and share some of its produce
An important lesson a parent can cultivate in his child is how to garden. Not only does gardening provide a child with a sense of responsibility and accomplishment, it also grows a family closer together – and that's what homeschooling is all about!