No Picking – At Least Not Right Now
Children, especially preschoolers, love to touch everything they see. It doesn’t matter whether it should be handled or not – leaves, sticks, the dog’s toys or that file you’re reviewing for work. The same happens in your garden and you have to walk a fine line between encouraging their interest in nature with having every flower bare of blooms and the pepper plant picked to death.
– Give your child specific tasks, such as picking up stray sticks or trash, stacking the flower pots or gathering up the gardening tools (nothing sharp, though).
– Invest in child-sized gardening tools. Buy a small trowel, shovel and watering can. Your little one can’t do much damage with a small watering can – and some of the water might even end up on the plants!
– Explain what’s what in the garden. Talk about the different flowers and when it’s appropriate to pick a bloom. For example, if your hydrangea is full of flowers, cut a few and make an arrangement. For plants that have been planted recently or are just starting to bloom, explain these aren’t ready to pick just yet and instead you’ll watch to see how big they get. Check the flowers’ progress regularly and let the child pick one or two when appropriate.
– Create a space just for your kids. Maybe it’s just one flower pot or a corner of the garden, but let them pick up a few inexpensive plants from the garden store and create their own garden. If they pick most of the blooms, it’s OK because it’s their garden and you didn’t invest much money in those plants.
Here’s a great project from Executive Director Jim Martin that kids can help with and be in charge of maintaining.
Whatever you do, foster their interest in plants and pretty soon you’ll have a great garden helper on your hands. Let us know how you work with your children to encourage gardening.