Like many others, I enjoy a cozy hibernation through winter, but that won’t stop me from beelining outside with the kids at the first signs of spring. In fact, weekend mornings with my nieces and nephews consist of taking care of the garden, followed by afternoon cooking and baking, are among our favorite activities, and growing food, gathering and crafts are a few ways we choose to bond. In addition to spending quality time together, these activities offer me a great way to educate future generations about sustainable living, including how to plant lettuce and other vegetables and fruits healthy eating and responsibility.
These activities are also a lot of fun. Here are some benefits and tips for gardening with the family.
Let’s get dirty!
I’m a handyman, but I am also very neat while working, clean and tidy, and I enforce strict rules inside the house for maintaining a liveable, guest-ready space. This tone changes, however, as soon as we head outside. In the yard, I let the kids play in the mud, pick up worms and dig up dirt. The yard and garden time is a healthy outlet for them and an opportunity for me to relax. The other benefits of going outside and getting dirty include:
- Absorbance of vitamin D from the sun.
- bacteria in dirt that help increase serotonin.
- The high levels of activity that may help us keep up healthy weight levels.
- An outlet for using up boundless amounts of energy.
The knowledge that we are all engaging in are beneficial activities that makes up for the muddy tracks later.
In addition to being enjoyable, going outside is mentally and physically stimulating.
My whole family is into gardening, and my garden, as well as my brother’s and the one my parents meticulously care for are all rather extensive and contain herbs for cooking, fruits, vegetables and flowers. Needless to say, there are a myriad of colors and scent’s that greet our senses. I know each plant and flower sparked curiosity in me while growing up.
Gardening is a wonderful time to teach about different flowers, including how to plant seeds, the proper ways to promote growth and potential benefits that different species may offer. Encourage them to smell different bouquets, ask about the differences that they notice and let the kids touch the petals and leaves.
As you take them through the garden, tell them the names of different plants (common and Latin). You may be surprised by how much they will remember later. Incorporating their senses of smell and touch will help strengthen their memories by making positive associations between your words and their experiences.
This is also a great opportunity for kids to learn about home improvement and how to take care of the exterior of the house, as you will be spending quality time outside. Kids can learn how to safely use basic tools, and you can even make a project of building a toolbox or even a home-made first aid kit.
Painting the outside walls can be a chore, but also a fun family activity in the spring and summer months, when paint dries really fast. Building or repairing the porch or deck can be a group pastime as well, and it can teach kids a variety of skills they will find useful in their independent adult life.
Children grow to appreciate food.
Anyone can acknowledge an aromatic, food-filled kitchen, but only those who know the origin of their bounty will cultivate a true appreciation. And this sense of value can begin in the garden.
Are there fruits or herbs that you can pick, wash and eat immediately? Harvest as a family to gather twice as much in a fraction of the time. As you gather, let your kids take a bite here and there, too. It will excite and teach them, all at the same time. Watch the interest light up their faces as they begin realizing where the majority of their food comes from.
A few easy items to begin your garden with can include lettuce, spinach, parsley, cilantro, cherry tomatoes and strawberries. Prepare the soil, drop in a few seeds of each, and make sure that the soil never stays dry for long.
Once items are ready to be picked, be sure that everyone has a role in cleaning and preparing them. While cooking and food preparation should stay as an activity reserved for adults – although, you are encouraged to teach your kids if they want to learn how to cook, kids can separate each item and pull off leaves. Salads are an easy dish that the whole family can get involved in preparing. Designate one adult as the chopper while the children rinse off and arrange the food in dishes. An engaging activity can be to turn the preparation process into a competition for the most visually – appealing dish.
Create a welcoming environment for nature.
Gardens are functional but they are also aesthetically pleasing, sometimes looking like living paintings. They also help to attract birds, butterflies and other forms of nature into your yard. A number of DIY crafts will help to create a welcoming environment for many forms of wildlife.
A yard full of hovering birds will make the yard feel like a Disney movie. One way to achieve this is through the construction of a DIY bird feeder. The internet is full of many unique bird-feeder concepts, but here’s one that only requires a few common items:
If you’re seriously into DIY projects, consider building a wooden fort, play area or a tree-house with the kids. If you don’t have a fairly large garden, find out how to build raised gardens and garden boxes, which is something you can incorporate into the house porch or deck, which I mentioned earlier. Hey, you could even build a dog house if you have a watchful pooch that will look after the garden.
A garden is easier to build and support than many people realize, and a few tips will ensure the possibility for anyone to enjoy the rewards of a home garden.
Written By: Jeff E. Brown