Gardening With Kids: How to Plan, Grow & Enjoy a Summer Garden

By: Stacy Chandna, MS, CIP

Now that school’s out and summer’s officially here, your family may be dreaming up a summertime bucket list. A garden project is a perfect addition – and it’s not too late to start!

Stacy Chandna, co-director of Kohl’s Start Childhood Off Right program, joins the blog with tips.

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Gardening with your child promotes their health and well-being.

A garden project has lots of rewards for your child and family, even beyond all the fresh fruits and vegetables that you’ll get to enjoy.

  • Gardening gets kids outside and connects them with nature. Research has found that there are tremendous benefits for kids and adults to spend time in nature. It pulls everyone away from their screens, sparks imagination, and is shown to reduce stress and anxiety – which is more important than ever after the last year of the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine.
  • Gardening enhances child development. Gardening creates an incredible opportunity for learning, allowing children to observe cause and effect directly and deepen their curiosity. Gardening builds skills for planning, problem-solving, and responsibility, which all support brain development.
  • Gardening promotes healthy eating. If your child is a picky eater, gardening can help them feel excited about trying new foods. There is something remarkable about watching seeds that you planted grow into plants that you can eat. For something extra special, try planting unusual varieties that you do not normally see in your grocery store – like purple carrots or striped beets!

> Related: Resources for Your Family’s “Next Normal” During COVID-19

To get your garden project started, keep these tips in mind.

Mother and son water plants in their garden

You do not need a big, flat backyard to start a garden project. If you have limited outdoor space or other less-than-ideal conditions, here are ideas to get you started.

  • Start small with an herb windowsill garden. Growing herbs is particularly fun for kids, because herbs grow very quickly from seeds and provide a perfect opportunity to do some taste testing.
  • Plant in a grow bag. Grow bags can be used anywhere, are easy to move, and are perfect for growing fruits and vegetables that do not have deep roots – for example, tomatoes, strawberries, potatoes and salad greens.
  • Repurpose your window boxes for your vegetable garden. Similar to grow bags, window boxes are great for growing plants that do not have deep roots. If you have a window box that’s six inches deep, try an assortment for summer salads: leaf lettuces, peppers and radishes.
  • Connect with your local community gardening organization. Often, you may find a community garden right around the corner, which may be a great place to begin cultivating your green thumb. If your family is in the Hartford area, connect with Knox to learn about resources in your neighborhood.

> Related: Meal Prep Made Easy: Make Cooking at Home Healthier and Fun for Kids

Build excitement for your garden project with your kids.

  • Read a book about gardening together. There are so many wonderful books about gardening, which can help set the stage for the fun in store for you and your child. Check out your local library for inspiration. (Looking for other book ideas? Connecticut Children’s recommends these 25 books for infants through young adults!)
  • Create your garden project plan together. Talk with your child about the plants you want to grow together, and bring your child with you to select the seeds or seedlings for planting.
  • Get dirty. Dig in together!
  • Build a watering routine. Once your garden is planted, put your child in charge of watering! The responsibility cultivates their independence and confidence.
  • Start a garden journal. Encourage your child to draw or take pictures and write notes to document your family’s garden journey.
  • Plan a special meal with ingredients you’ve grown. Invite your child to design a meal that features ingredients from your garden. It can be as simple as an herb topping for a homemade pizza.

So map out your garden space, get some soil and seeds, and start planting. Happy growing!

 

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