This article collects a bit of practical advice for a fun outdoor spring activity to be carried out with your children: starting and nurturing a small (or large) vegetable garden to encourage contact between children and nature. This is a unique opportunity to talk about the importance of raw materials (such as water), composting, and the many small animals that live in soil and on vegetables, performing vital activities for us humans.
Are you ready? Let’s get started now!
Below are three reasons why cultivating a vegetable garden with children can become a useful and fun activity, from an educational point of view and from the point of view of safeguarding the environment.
- It helps develop their sense of taste because it allows them to try different varieties of fruit and vegetables that they have learned the names of while the grew.
- It raises awareness on environmental issues, such as the importance of eating seasonal fruits, composting and recycling organic waste, and protecting water, a precious resource for humans, plants, and animals.
- It allows them to learn a lot about the ecosystem around the garden and about nature in general: think, for example, of how many caterpillars and ladybugs they could meet! This activity is ideal for talking about how animals and plants are interconnected. Everything will be new to your child, and he will find every topic exciting!
How do you create a vegetable garden with children?
Here is a brief overview of the steps you will follow and activities you will do in your project of creating a vegetable garden with children.
- Tools: Provide gardening tools suitable for children’s small hands. A shovel, rake, watering can, small spade, etc. All tools should be ergonomic and adapted to children’s size and preferably be real objects, not toys (nor plastic ones). It may be a challenge to find real tools safe for children to use; however, using proper tools will make children feel important and appreciated (imagine their excitement at using grown-up things!).
- Designate a garden plot for each child so that they are individually responsible for their work. For 2- or 3-year-olds, learning to plant a vegetable garden means taking ownership of the gardening tools and trying to reproduce adult actions: digging, sowing, handling, covering, harvesting, treading, and playing with the soil. All these operations allow them to learn a series of gestures that, in the future, they will repeat with ease (and pleasure). Remember that getting dirty is fun and is part of the learning process!
- Find an accessible and suitable area to start your garden: make sure it’s sunny, close to a water source, and with healthy soil. If it’s not on property you own or rent, make sure that you have permission from the owner. The possibilities are numerous: you can place the vegetable garden on land adjacent to your house, in a sandbox, or in a dedicated part of the central garden. Ideally, the garden should be close to an area where children play, so that every now and then they can stop, pick a strawberry…. and then continue their activities!
- Ask children to use a watering can: this is very important, not only because it allows you to talk about the relationship between nature, life, and water, but also because all children enjoy playing with water! You can start using a watering can when the seeds begin to ripen to give the little plants all the nourishment they need.
What to grow in the baby garden?
Although one of the best qualities of a good gardener is patience, most budding gardeners will not have enough of it. Children want to see, touch and devour fruits and vegetables. To capture children’s attention for as long as possible, it’s crucial to choose vegetables that grow quickly:
- Green leafy vegetables: you can pick leaf by leaf, and it’s a fun activity! We recommend arugula, spinach, and chard.
- Radishes (they grow in 18 days, so you don’t have to wait too long).
- Some varieties of tomatoes (such as Sasha Altai) also grow relatively fast.
- Turnip or beets also have a fast growth cycle (approx. a month).
However, if you are not in too much of a hurry and the kids are patient, you can grow:
All you have to do is choose and start sowing!
Choose the right outfit for your little farmer!
We recommend choosing comfortable and long clothes (to avoid the risk of scratches) and rain boots to avoid any risk of injury to the feet! Remember, however, that children love to get dirty… and being in a vegetable garden will be the perfect opportunity for them to get muddy!
Tell us the story of your vegetable garden!
We can’t wait to hear about your adventures in the kids’ garden! Happy gardening!