When I started gardening last year, I was a complete beginner with no clue where it would take me. My initial goals were to keep at least one veggie plant alive all summer, and maybe even enjoy eating at least 1-2 of the veggies themselves, if I could manage to grow any at all. I wanted to enjoy the process and use it as a learning experience for myself, but mostly garden as a side hobby just for me. Well, as moms we know we can’t even pee alone, so it was silly of me to think I’d be gardening alone. My two year olds quickly invited themselves in on the fun. This year, I’m excited to start up my garden for them just as much as for me. We enjoyed every minute of our gardening time together, and in addition to great memories, here are some other things I was pleasantly surprised that gardening provided for my family/kids:
1) Brings the Whole Family Outdoors
Every spring and summer, I spend a lot of time watching my kids play outside. They’ll dig in some dirt or ride tricycles while I sit on the sidelines and keep an eye on them. But when we garden, the whole family is participating and outside together for a common goal. My husband can diagnose pest problems while I pick the ripe produce and my toddlers water the plants. Bringing the whole family of all different ages together can be tough in our fast-paced lives, but gardening can provide that opportunity to slow down and enjoy each others’ company.
2) Endless Nature Exploration and Science Lessons
Gardening gets your naturally inquisitive young children up close and personal with creation. They can explore the world around them on their own, and ask their own questions as they pop up. Even really informal conversations outdoors with your children can teach them loads about nature, but it can lead to more formal research and experiments if gardening really ignites that interest in nature and science for your child. Talk about an easy way to cultivate a love of learning in your child early on!
3) Lessons in “Real Food”
In a society where food comes from boxes at the store, it is refreshing to be able to share with your children where food actually comes from: the ground! Bringing food from your backyard to your family dinner table can open up all kinds of conversations with your kids about delicious, healthy, “real” food choices. Even if you have a picky eater, you may be amazed at the foods they will try that they had a hand in growing themselves.
That would be my two year old licking a tomato on the vine.
4) Opportunities for Crafts and Play
Besides the potting and digging and watering, gardening can open up even more opportunities for playing and crafting with your children. They can decorate their own milk jug watering cans, paint their own flower pots, modge podge their own garden markers, and more! You will quickly see that gardening fun extends beyond the flower bed!
5) Teaches Responsibility and Taking Care of Nature
Gardening can be more fun than normal “chores” for children, but it can still teach some of the same lessons. Children will quickly learn that gardening can be an almost daily responsibility that they need to keep up with in order to help the garden thrive. While gardening with your kids, you can also talk with them about what it means to care for other living things, the environment, and our planet as a whole.