I spend a number of hours each week in my vegetable garden. To keep my 5 year old and 2 year old interested, and happy to come out with me, I introduced them to gardening from the time they were babies. I involve them in all of the activities I do in the garden. A vegetable garden is a great learning environment. We talk about food in our home A LOT!
• Group activities together and do a few at a time over multiple days in blocks of 1-2 hours. This means we are not outside for one entire day per week.
• Don’t be concerned about the children getting wet or dirty. This allows them to create their own games and activities. We have “outside” clothes and often strip them off at the back door at the end of a gardening session. I also have an old towel on standby for drying them off.
• Allow the children to choose if they wish to be involved and help, or not. They may choose to play in the sandpit, dig in the dirt, play with cars, or bikes, or play a game of their choice.
• Carry the garden activities into the kitchen. My children enjoy collecting produce and then helping to prepare dinner with it, or use it in baking. That is another story …
• Create a routine. Ours is:
- Put on “outside” clothes. These are clothes that can get dirty.
- Putting on sunscreen and/or hat
- Put on suitable shoes
• Watering. This is easily the activity that they enjoy the most.
• Collecting, drying and planting seeds. Participating in the cycle of growing can be very rewarding. My 5 year old has been fascinated by the process of collecting the seeds, planting and then growing and collecting again. The duration of the cycle can be a great thing to share the understanding of seasonality and that everything is not available all the time, or immediately.
• Labelling and caring for plants. This year my 5 year old has been doing the writing on tags and learning the words as part of this activity
• Collecting produce, identifying readiness by colour, and size. Using gentle handling techniques and discussing the health benefits of that item are all part of this activity.
• Weeding – digging, and identification of weeds
• Mulching – Use a shovel, turn the compost, learn about food waste and recycling from the kitchen to the garden
• Bugs and pests – My 5 year old likes to bring his magnifying glass out to look for bugs and sometimes his bug book to identify them. They both also love to collect and destroy pests such as snails from the garden and to collect worms to add to the worm farm.
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