Spring is at its peak, so it’s time to revive your garden from winter sleep. And there’s no better (and enjoyable) way to do it than engaging and watching kids gardening.
Gardening is not just another way to teach your children responsibility. Research at Cornell University has found that regular gardening activities teach children environmental awareness and valuable life skills.
Essentials Before Taking Your Kids Gardening
Gardening improves children’s learning abilities. And, kids who are busy around the garden follow a healthier diet with more interest. If you want to involve kids in gardening, where should you start?
Before you get to digging, weeding, and watering, you need to prepare your child for this responsible activity. And here are a few essential steps, how to do it.
1. Involve Your Kid in a Garden Project
Start by creating the plan of your garden and involve your kids in this process. You can break down your garden into several zones with different plants – flowers, vegetables, and fruit trees.
Create a clear division between all the zones to help kids navigate the garden better. Once your garden plan is ready, consider the plants you and your kids want to plant there.
Here, it’s important to avoid dangerous and poisonous plants, such as:
- Oleander. This shrub is gorgeous, with yellow, white, and pink blossoms, but it exhumes a cardiac toxin that can lead to slow heartbeat, low blood pressure, and nausea.
- Azalea. Azaleas have amazing colorful blossoms, but if a child accidentally bites its leaf, it can cause a severe allergy and even anaphylactic shock.
- Horse chestnut. Children love the seeds from this tree and use them to play the game of conkers. But if a horse chestnut seed is ingested, it can poison a child with a toxin called aesculin that causes paralysis and can be lethal.
- English ivy. This plant is evergreen, which is why you might consider planting it in your garden. But even a brief touch of English ivy’s leaves can cause severe dermatitis, and ingesting the berries can lead to coma.
Here’s a more comprehensive list of plants to avoid when gardening with your kids. After you’ve made a list of plants for kids, you can have them pick the plants they will be responsible for.
Once they do, you can create garden labels with each kid’s name on them. This way, they will have an easier time finding plants they will look after.
2. Purchase a Gardening Set for Kids
When the garden plan and the list of plants are ready, you can take your little ones on a little road trip to a store to pick up gardening tools for kids.
Planting kits for kids usually include:
- a rake
- a spade
- a trowel
- a gardening fork
- a weeder
- a watering can
Additionally, gardening kits for kids can include a cultivator, but it’s better to buy one if your child is old enough and already has some experience with gardening.
If your child is just starting with gardening activities, you can buy them a basic set of a rake, a leaf rake, a shovel, and a dibber. When choosing gardening sets for your kids, make sure you take a look at the sizes of the tools and their weight.
They should be safe to use; if they are made of food, it should be smooth with no splinters. And all the materials used in this kit should be non-toxic.
3. Gardening with Kids Safety Measures
Before you and your kids start working in the garden, you should explain the core safety measures to make kids gardening safe.
Here are some of the rules your children need to follow around the garden:
- Kids should wear proper shoes that cover and protect their feet completely.
- It’s a must to wear appropriate clothes from a breathable fabric.
- Children should wear hats and put on sunscreen to prevent sunstroke and sunburns (a great way to train your kids to wear sunscreen at all times).
- Kids should wash their hands thoroughly before and after gardening activities.
- Children should always follow the pathways not to damage the plants.
- All the gardening tools should be stored in a specific place.
- Gardening tools should be properly cleaned each time after kids are done with gardening.
- The garden is a calm space, so no running and pushing is allowed.
Also, before getting your kids involved in gardening activities, you should give them a master class on how to properly use their gardening kits.
Some of these tools can be quite sharp, so to avoid injuries, make sure your children know how and when to use each tool.
4. Talk about Dos and Don’ts with Insects
Since we started talking about safety measures, it’s important to single out the behavior rules your kids need to follow when they are around spiders or insects.
You should explain these rules to your kids before you start gardening. Where should you start?
First off, start by telling your kids about the plants that attract insects the most. In your garden, these flowers can be:
- blossoming trees (apple, cherry, apricot tree)
- raspberry (attracts mosquitoes in the evening)
When your kids are around these plants, make sure they don’t grab them, step or accidentally sit on them. Also, warn them against putting their face too close to the blossoming plant since there can be a bee inside the blossom.
Dangerous insects you can find around your garden
Your next task is to educate your kids about the harmful insects and spiders they can encounter while gardening. These insects can include:
- yellow jackets and wasps
- red ants
- black widow spiders
- brown recluse spiders
- brown widow spiders
- yellow sac spiders
- redback spiders
It’s important to educate your children about the plants and the habitats where dangerous insects and spiders live. For instance, ticks can be found in areas with tall grass.
Black widow spiders live around woodpiles, so if your child is carrying wood into the house, they should investigate it for black widows.
You can visit National Geographic to find more information on the habitats of different insects and spiders.
Dos and don’ts with insect and spider bites
Next, it’s crucial for your child to know how to act if they got bitten by an insect or a spider. There are a few dos and don’ts they should learn by heart. This knowledge can also come in handy in the future.
- Clean the area around the bite with warm water and soap.
- Put ice on the area around the bite.
- Ask for medical help if you exhibit any symptoms besides slight pain and irritation.
- Warning signs include nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, difficulty breathing, fever, belly pain, increasing redness or discoloration, and swelling.
Make sure your child also knows these don’ts if they get bitten by an insect or a spider:
- Don’t touch the area around the bite.
- Don’t try to suck out the venom from the bite.
- Don’t maintain contact with a spider or insect that bit you.
Explain to your child the importance of asking for help if they are not sure whether a spider or insect was venomous or not. If there is no adult around, your kid should call 911 or the Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) and ask for assistance.
How to behave around snakes?
There is a possibility that your kid will encounter a snake in your garden, especially if you live in an area where snakes are common.
In this case, you should explain to your child how to behave around a snake and get away from it safely:
- Don’t approach the snake regardless if it’s venomous or not.
- Stay calm and don’t make sharp moves.
- Slowly move away while keeping an eye on the snake.
If a snake still bites your child, it’s important to seek help as fast as possible, especially if you don’t know if the snake was venomous or not.
Snake venom is often more dangerous than that of a spider or an insect, so have your child examined as fast as possible.
5. Assign Everyone Their Own Task
Now, it’s time to tend to your garden. You can create a list of activities to do around the children’s garden, and since every child has a plant or two to take care of, they already have a task to do on a daily basis.
It’s also important to create a set of gardening activities that your children would engage in together. For example, to prepare the garden for fall and winter, your children can do some teamwork to protect hoses and outdoor faucets, winterize plants and trees, and rake and remove all leaves.
As an adult, you should monitor all these activities at all times. Also, before assigning gardening activities to your kids, make sure you evaluate their:
- physical shape
- height and weight
Some children might feel eager to do all the work in the world, but they can hurt themselves if they start doing a not age-appropriate task or are not physically fit enough for it.
But also make sure you don’t discourage your child from working in the garden just because they are too young or don’t have enough gardening knowledge.
Always try to find a task for them, even if it’s small. And don’t forget to praise them for their accomplishments.
6. Create a Garden Care Schedule
As you know, growing plants for kids is not a one-time activity. It’s a huge responsibility your children should take on and do regularly. And you can create a garden care schedule to help them adjust to this responsibility.
Start by drafting a simple schedule for one week to see how your children are going to get used to the new activities. Don’t overwhelm them with too many daily tasks – it can effectively kill their excitement.
If your children are eager to keep working in the garden at the same pace, leave the same weekly gardening activities. But if your children are ready to do more, you can increase their workload a bit and build a monthly schedule (e.g., for the summer).
Also, when creating a schedule, consider the time of the day when your children are going to be out in the garden working. It should either be early in the morning, when it’s not too hot yet or in the late afternoon or the evening.
Wrapping Up Kids Gardening 101
Gardening is very beneficial for the children, and they will have a blast doing it with you. It’s a super fun activity, especially for the summer, and it teaches your kids responsibility, makes them more fit physically and mentally, and helps them eat healthier.
But before you get to gardening, make sure you get your kids ready for this activity. Here’s a quick checklist of what you should do:
- plan the garden, create zones, and choose safe, non-poisonous plants
- buy kid-friendly gardening kits
- make sure your children understand all the safety measures
- assign each kid their own tasks according to their age and physical capabilities
- create a garden care schedule to teach your children responsibility
It’s absolutely worth it to watch your kids gardening, and following these rules will help you make it safer and more fun.
Author’s bio. Jessica Fender is a professional writer and educational blogger. Jessica enjoys sharing her ideas to make writing and learning fun. You can check her last review of TutorDoctor.