Gardening is a great way for kids to get exercise, spend time outdoors, and learn about the environment, food and wildlife. However, many kids grow up today without the benefit of having a gardening or farming background and access to free play outdoors. They often don’t know what to do in a garden. That’s where parents and grandparents come in. Adults can help kids learn about growing plants in a fun and engaging way. Plus, it will be a special time together outdoors, exploring the land, food and flowers.
But what if you don’t know where to start in the garden? What should you do with your kids so they won’t be bored, but you won’t be in over your head?
Here are some simple activities that will inspire your kids and keep them interested in the natural world.
HOLD A VINE RACE
Kids love races. Remember frog-jumping races when you were a kid? Why not hold a plant race to see what vine reaches the finish line first. Fill some large containers with soil and let your child choose some kid-friendly vining plants such as pole beans, ‘Sugar Snap’ peas, climbing nasturtiums, and black-eyed Susan vines (Thunbergia). Run a string from the containers to the bottom of an overhang, ceiling, or beam about 6 feet away. Then get ready, plant your seeds, and go! Water and fertilize each container the same and have your kids mark intervals along the string to see who’s winning after the first quarter, halftime and 3rd quarter. The winner gets a prize – free pole beans and peas to eat!
MAKE A PLANT CAR WASH
Kids love water and they really love squirting things and each other with it. Here’s a way to teach kids about safe insect control while having a little fun, too. Make a naturally safe insect spray by dissolving three tablespoons of soap flakes or liquid soap in a gallon of water. Use a non-detergent product such as Murphy’s Oil Soap. Add the mixture to a plastic spray bottle. Let the kids set up an assembly line of container plants to spray. Teach them how to identify bad bugs and spray the leaves effectively.
CREATE FUNKY PLANT CONTAINERS
It’s said that plants can grow just about anywhere. Instead of the standard clay or plastic pots, let your kids choose fun and funky containers to grow plants in. All you need are containers that are big and sturdy enough to hold soil and a plant, plus they need to have some water drainage holes.
Some innovative items that can be transformed into containers include old toys (such as a large dump truck), a wagon, an empty food container, a basketball cut in half or an old shoe or hat. Kids will get a kick out of plants growing in weird places, and you can teach them about what it takes to keep container plants healthy.
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Charlie Nardozzi, a nationally recognized garden writer, book author, speaker and radio and television personality, has appeared on HGTV, PBS and Discovery Channel television networks. He is the senior horticulturist and spokesperson for the National Gardening Association (garden.org) and Chief Gardening Officer for the Hilton Garden Inn.