We have a little yard (that my husband takes immaculate care of) and area for gardening (we all have our own special talents and gardening is not one of mine), so we've given our awesome Nanny Nikki (who does have a talent and love of gardening) and the kids free reign of all that grows there. Nikki is with our kids 2-3 days a week most weeks and they get A LOT done in those days, all while having a great time and learning a lot. It's a win-win. They reap what they sow and they sow what they reap and all that.
I asked our Nanny Nikki to give us a rundown of what she thinks important for gardening with kids and here are her tips!
I’m no expert when it comes to gardening. What I do have is a wonder and respect for stopping and smelling the roses. I enjoy the small details that nature creates in the world around us. My photo album is filled with flowers and nature do to research, and feed my fascination. I am also an illustrator and find inspiration in the world around us.
I do not have a yard of my own to take care of (renting in Chicago), nor do I have the time to keep an eye on a plot during the week at one of the many community gardens in the city. I try to experiment and play where I can. To experiment and see what you and the land are capable of is the best part. However, you also need to be able to make it a part of your lifestyle. Like owning a pet.
Here are some tips for gardening with little kids:
- Be okay with messy. Flowers and vegetables live in dirt. To care for them you must be one with the dirt. Take away the stress of mud. Playing in the dirt releases endorphins in the brain. And it's healthier for you and the plants if you aren’t anxious about getting too messy. Make a plan well in advance if mess DOES stress you out. As simple as shoes off before stepping side. Have time for a bath later. Freedom to explore and get your fingers in the mud is the BEST part.
- Help the kids plan the garden. Give them options. Find things that they can easily plant. Things they are capable of doing their selves. Succeeding and failing is what it is all about. I find it best to let them try and figure out the obstacles along with me instead of ordering them around.
- Start learning the plants in your backyard. When the twins were barely two years old they just wanted to eat everything. Including the dirt. It seems a little stressful at first because you don’t want anyone to get ill. There's no stopping it… your little one will probably sneak in a taste of something. I find it helpful to have them right next to you while weeding and talking out loud about what's okay to nibble on and what can give you a tummy ache (like too much dirt). We practice asking before you eat (tip: There are a plethora of weeds that are edible AND tasty. The only down side is neighbors or friends using weed killer. So always ASK before you TRY!) Last year, they wanted to taste everything in the beginning of the season. This year they can identify weeds vs. flowers. They know to ask if they aren’t sure. And they know which weeds are edible and delicious!
- If you have a plan in mind for your own garden and find it a bit much for toddlers to get involved, give a designated area for your little ones to explore and terrorize freely!
- PLANT THINGS YOU CAN EAT!
- PLANT THINGS THAT ARE BEE AND BUTTERFLY FRIENDLY.
------- THANKS NIKKI!
My kids have gained such a great respect for nature and greenery and growing our own flowers and food, it's just remarkable. Bugs and worms are their friends and they know which ones are to be feared and which are not. They know what to look for as far as weeds go and MOSTLY only pick those out to be thrown away. My husband accidentally mowed over some scallions last year and he's never heard the end of it. We've learned that growing what you eat - even just a few things here and there - is incredibly satisfying. They've tried things that they wouldn't have tried, had I just put it on their plates rather than have them pull it out of our ground.
I can handle the flower urns in front and that's about it (I'm not allowed to touch anything else). We were super lucky to inherit a bunch of beautiful peony bushes when we moved into this house a few years ago and our neighbor across the alley has given us some irises from her own garden to transplant. This year I did get super ambitious and planted a little herb pot as well that we munch on already. Baby steps. As with everything else, I'm learning along with my kids.
Have fun and go get dirty!
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