Children's projects

The ABC of Gardening With Children

By Julie Boudreau, horticulturist and mom… of three!

Gardening with children is a gift you cannot do without, especially if you are a gardener! Their desire to imitate all the gestures and to contribute to the garden deserves all our attention (and energy!). Here, in a few words, are practical ideas and wise advice to make this experience memorable.

Gardening with kids doesn’t always turn out the way you imagine! But what happiness it brings! My “Sunny Girl Number 2” wins! She’s the one planting with the big person’s big trowel! I had to fall back on the mini green plastic trowel! Photo: Julie Boudreau

Gardening With Kids Pays Off

The physical health and stress reduction benefits of gardening have been recognized for decades, but there is growing recognition for the other benefits of gardening. For children, gardening is primarily a source of learning. In addition to basic techniques, such as sowing or watering, the child also learns about patience and the sense of responsibility. At another level, thanks to flowers, we can explain sexuality, history and we can even, with the older ones, discuss reflections on philosophy, spirituality or the role of humans on earth. In addition to cultivating a garden, the child also cultivates his or her inner garden. Finally, you cannot praise the merits of gardening with children without mentioning all these precious moments spent in their company. Beautiful memories to treasure ! The best of all is surely the moment when the gardening tools drop to switch to a tickling session in the lawn. As they say in horticultural jargon: “a seed is sown…”

B for Berries

Better to plant them in large numbers! Children love to tour the garden in search of their favorite berries. Early in the morning, in pajamas, or just like that, when they think of it. Their insatiable love for berries drives them to eat all strawberries and raspberries, even those that are a little pale pink. Difficult to save some for jams and pies!

E for Ecology

It goes without saying that a garden where children live must be a pesticide-free zone. Many studies demonstrate the dangers of these products on the health of children under five. Children like to roll in the grass, eat vegetables from the garden without rinsing them. It is also in the ecological garden that we find one of the plants most loved by children: the dandelion!

F for Food

Putting everything in their mouth: this is a typical reflex of children under five. A parent gardener must insist that there are “toxic-poison-poo-woo!” plants. In the garden and that you should ALWAYS find out about the edibility of a plant before tasting it. The child must take it for granted that all the plants he does not know are poisonous. This prevents unfortunate incidents.

In my garden, instead of eliminating all potentially toxic plants, I opted for education instead! I taught my “Sunny Girls” to ALWAYS ask if it’s edible BEFORE putting it in their mouth! Twenty years later, they are still very much alive! Photo: Pixabay

G for Growing Stuff

Many plants are very easy to sow. To capture children’s attention, we preferably choose seeds that are large and germinate quickly. It’s wiser to allocate spaces for children to make their own seedlings, than to demand perfect seedlings in the garden for adults.

  • 4 easy-to-sow annuals: Sunflower, Zinnia, Cosmos, Knapweed
  • 4 easy-to-sow vegetables: Beans, Lettuces, Peas, Radish.
  • 4 easy-to-sow climbing plants: Cowpea, Morning Glory, Climbing beans, Sweet pea.

H for Harvest

The time of harvesting vegetables from the garden is undoubtedly one of the happiest times for a kid. See them pull out their first carrot, dust it off their sweater and bite into it. See them handpick those cherry tomatoes! The Potato Hunt is the best treasure hunt in the world! Children redouble their efficiency when they are asked to pull up all the radishes (but not eat them) or exhaust their strength in pulling out the cabbages! (Gna ha ha!) They’ll sleep well after that! Harvesting vegetables is one thing! Eating them is another…

And “I” for insects! Gardening with the little ones is a great opportunity to introduce them to life! Find a caterpillar. Try to guess what it will eat. Introduce notions of ecology… Photo: Julie Boudreau

L for Ladybug

The garden is not only composed of plants, there are also insects. By its beautiful colors and its ease of capture, the ladybug quickly becomes a friend of the little ones. Let’s take this opportunity to teach them that the ladybug is also a gardener’s friend, because it eats the ugly aphids. Children can be encouraged to capture the insects they find, in order to identify them. The butterfly hunt is also part of this perspective!

P for Patience

Gardening with kids doesn’t just benefit the kids. It develops certain qualities of the adult. Indeed, adults must be patient when faced with a child who wishes to participate, but who does not necessarily do it the right way… A dose of detachment and understanding is also an asset when the child returns with a magnificent bouquet taken from rare and favorite plants in the garden!

S for Sunflower

To impress children, you have to make them sow “simple sunflowers”. In truth, let’s sow giant varieties like ‘Russian Giant’, ‘Taiyo’ or ‘Mammoth’! The child can be encouraged to measure their sunflower every day to see the progress! A photo of the final result is essential!

T for Tools

Obviously, to interest children in gardening, they must be offered tools specially designed for little hands. With their own trowels, shovels or rakes in hand, children feel considered and take their role more seriously. A big tablespoon and a small bucket can do wonders. That said, children also enjoy working with the same tools as adults. Hence the importance of always having a second trowel at hand!

A reforestation activity… in the mud! We love! At least the kids love it! Photo: Julie Boudreau

U for Ultraviolet

Nothing better than outdoor life for children, but you have to be careful of the sun rays. At all times, especially between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and particularly in spring and summer, children’s skin should be protected with a sunscreen lotion with an SPF of 30. You might even prefer one with an SPF of 45 for infants. Children should also be provided with a sun hat with a wide brim.

V Like Venus Flytrap

The Venus flytrap is an insectivorous plant. A plant that eats flies is intriguing, even for adults. Children will spend hours capturing insects to drop into the traps. Satisfying!

W for Watering

This is a great way to make children’s participation useful. They love to play with water. With a small watering can, the child will be happy to drown the plants that need it. You can also give them the spray gun for a few minutes. Water doesn’t always go where it should, but who wouldn’t want to get sprayed when it’s hot!

W Is Also for Worms

Undoubtedly the most tortured animal in the garden! All children aged around two years old discover their first earthworms with astonishment. They study their elasticity (sometimes stretch them a little too much!), they collect them in pots and forget them in full sun. As soon as they finally understand that earthworms are friends of the gardener and that they are happiest in the ground, they dig holes for them worthy of the best gravediggers! Courage, it usually only lasts two summers!

Z Like Zea

Zea is the Latin name for corn and with corn we make mazes! Those with enough space can sow a square of corn at least 12 feet (four meters) large and mow winding paths when the corn reaches three inches in height. In no time, corn creates insurmountable hedges. A wonderful place to play hide-and-seek or to ‘pretend to be lost’.

Mom doesn’t just have her gardening tools stolen… her camera has also been taken hostage! Photo: Julie Boudreau (with her backup camera)

Julie Boudreau is a horticulturist who trained at the Institut de technologie agroalimentaire in Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec. She’s been working with plants for more than 25 years. She has published many gardening books and hosted various radio and television shows. She now teaches horticulture at the Centre de formation horticole of Laval. A great gardening enthusiast, she’s devoted to promoting gardening, garden design, botany and ecology in every form. Born a fan of organic gardening, she’s curious and cultivates a passion for all that can be eaten. Julie Boudreau is “epicurious” and also fascinated by Latin names.

0 comments on “The ABC of Gardening With Children

Leave a Reply

Sign up for the Laidback Gardener blog and receive articles in your inbox every morning!