Organic Gardening for Children
Introducing children to gardening is an excellent way to teach them about so many of aspects of the world around us, as well as being a lot of fun. Small children can be astonished when a seed they planted suddenly produces a green shoot. Older children can take pride in producing flowers for the home or vegetables for the table.
Children like gardening because it is all “for real“. Many of the things they are used to doing are based in fantasy play or with toys, but with gardening they are dealing with the real natural world. Whether they grow small plants in a pot at their bedroom window, or help mommy, daddy or grandparents planting flowers and vegetables outside, they are seeing the cycle of life and death happening before their eyes.
We usually prefer to focus on the happy aspects of kids’ gardening, but it is also an easy and kind way to introduce them to the concept of death in nature. They will find that not all of their plants will thrive. Of those that do, some will have to be weeded out. Others may well be hit by pests or disease. All of this needs to be explained to children. They may be disappointed at first but learning to understand how nature works will help them later, when they are faced with the death of loved pets or even family members.
You may find the best way to start children gardening is to take one plant at a time. The favorite plants for little children are ones that sprout easily, grow quickly and have brightly coloured flowers or attractive leaves. Good plants for this are primroses, pansies, geraniums and lamb’s ears. Sunflowers are a great choice for a sunny garden, because they grow to such a size. You can measure their progress each week just like measuring your child’s growth, but even faster. Little children will also recognise sunflowers very easily, because they look just like the typical picture of a flower that they see in cartoons and books.
Children also love to grow something that they can eat. Strawberries are perfect for them because they can forage for them in the garden. Salad vegetables are good too. Anything that needs to be cooked is not as interesting for most children, unless you want to involve them in cooking too.
The best kind of gardening for children, is, of course, organic gardening. You wouldn’t want your children to be exposed to chemical pesticides or fertilizers when they are working with you in the garden. Little ones especially, will touch the earth as well as the plants, and some of what they touch usually gets into their mouths!
Of course, you’ll also want to avoid poisonous plants if you have very small children. You’ll need to research a little because some plants are toxic where you would not expect it. For example, the plants of the nightshade family, which includes potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers and eggplant, often have poison in the leaves even though other parts are edible.
If you don’t have a garden or have no interest in gardening yourself, you still have plenty of options. It’s perfectly possible for children to grow flowers or herbs in containers in the house. They can also become involved in any gardening projects in the community, or when visiting friends and family members.
However, it must be remembered that children involved in organic gardening need to visit the garden as often as possible to maintain interest. They need to understand and to care about what is happening.