Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Gardening: Great Way to Connect With Kids

Gardening Together as a Family © Katrena
Today is Vernal Equinox, a heralding of spring in my neck of the woods, and one of the greatest pleasures of this season for me is to enjoy the plethora of natural beauty around me. And getting a little dirty. Well, sometimes just getting downright grungy with the grubs in the flower garden, if I'm telling the whole truth.

Gardening with the Kids © Katrena
Teach Kids About the Family Tree Through Flowers

Gardening with the kids can be a fun way to connect generations. From an early age, my kids are learning that the lavender iris and pink roses that smell like perfume came from Maw. So did the black-eyed susans, daffodils, lariope, and many other dots of color and texture that make our yard unique. And the awesome red hot pokers that look like candy corn came from Aunt Cyndi. The rocks lining the gardens? Delivered by Maw and Granddad from one of their many trips to Virginia. Planting flowers is a great way to pass the shears from one generation to the next.

Teach Family Tree in Creative Ways © Katrena
This can be a great opportunity to tell the children something of one's own roots. A memory book that uses dirt as its canvas. A motley scrapbook that is ever changing and always growing with the seasons.

Practical Gardening With Kids © Katrena
I remember a wonderful couple named Hal and Della Paris who lived about a half mile from my childhood home. They gave all sorts of tips on how to get a start from a rose bush and how to make wonderful creamed corn. They also had a bird that could whistle Yankee Doodle. What fun memories...ones that I like to share when I would see Mom's snowball bush in full bloom.

How to Enjoy Quality Family Time © Katrena
Involving the Kids With Gardening

If you put my kids in a lovely playground full of fancy slides, swings, and other equipment, it is not unusual to see them sitting on the ground with sticks, digging in the dirt. I get excited about a truckload of soil, so I guess it's in the genes.

Family History in the Flower Garden © Katrena
Gardening can serve as a great hands-on and hands-in classroom providing the kids with an opportunity to learn about a nice variety of topics such as:
  • Plant options (starts from families/friends, seeds from store, etc.)
  • How to prepare soil and make compost (also a lesson in recycling)
  • Names of different gardening tools and how to care for and store them
  • Good body mechanics, a topic they may appreciate more in later years
  • Selecting the best location for plants and how to design a garden
  • Learning about the various zones
  • How to use flowers to attract butterflies, hummingbirds, etc.
  • Beneficial animals for gardeners, such as worms and ladybugs
  • Proper care of the flower garden
  • How to recycle water
  • The difference between perennials and annuals
  • How to identify weeds, plants, flowers
  • Safety tips, such as identifying poison ivy, what to do if you see a snake in the garden, protecting skin from sunburn, etc.
Teach Kids Patience Through Gardening © Katrena
Oh yes, gardening can also teach a bit about patience.

Kids Have Great Ideas for Flower Garden Designs © Katrena
Gardening can also show my kids how very human I am. When I let an interesting plant grow thinking it was a flower when in fact it was just a huge bunch of weeds that had transplanted themselves from the neighbor's yard, my kids saw me make a clean slate for the next planting season. The kids' enthusiasm more than makes up for the mistakes.

How to Connect With Kids © Katrena
My gardens might not be featured on the front of a magazine, but I have learned that flowers often grow bigger when planted near the septic tank, and if they grow well on the side of the interstate, they will probably have a decent chance to grow in my yard!

Enjoy Nature With the Family © Katrena
It's ok...not all gardeners are perfect. Not every effort will be met with success. Sometimes animals will eat the tulip bulbs, a hail storm will ruin the prettiest flowers, or the plants never come up.

Flower Garden Lessons © Katrena
After many unsuccessful efforts at planting 4 o'clocks, I poured the entire seed packet into a rather small hole, hoping that just one plant would grow. Yep...you guessed it. I think they all came up. Actually I think I have some other time zones in there too.

Wildflowers Can Add Color to Garden for Free © Katrena
Some of my favorite flowers are those that simply volunteer themselves in the yard in the form of violets or dandelions. They make great bouquets and can add loads of color for free!

Encourage Creativity in Kids © Katrena
My kids love to pick out seed packets from a nearby dollar store. It is interesting to see their different personalities coming out as they carefully choose what flowers look most appealing to them. If I don't already know the name of the flowers, we can learn them together. One of their favorite computer games that I created is called "Name This Flower" with lots of shots of various flowers native to this area.

Using a Garden as a Classroom © Katrena
Those who plant a vegetable garden or herb garden can get the added benefits of enjoying wonderful home-cooked meals with the harvest. Many children today do not realize where those vegetables in the store originate or how to identify the most basic vegetables and herbs as they appear in the garden. Even those who have very small yards can encourage the kids with a small container garden indoors or outdoors.

Encouraging the Kids to Learn About Plants and Flowers © Katrena
Gardening Together as a Family

Gardening has been a part of my life for many years, a way of life that I hope will continue with my kids. Perhaps some day they will be knocking at my door, asking for a start of some of my own flowers...and maybe, just maybe, the story that goes with them!

Visit the Wildflower Bouquets site map to find more great articles on connecting generations, spending quality time with the kids, and much more!

Bond With the Kids Through Gardening © Katrena

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