What a beautiful spring we’ve had so far in the metro! Though some overnights have been chilly, the crisp mornings have given way to sunshine, beautiful temps, and just the right amount of rain to green up the grass and bring out leaves from the buds on the trees at seemingly warp speed!
In our Garden Mama series last summer, I gave an overview of our family vegetable garden adventures, including prep & planting, care & harvest, and preserving, cooking & sharing. This spring, I’m back with another post dedicated to ideas on how to make gardening a family affair.
Whether you have a few flowers or herbs in pots or a large in-ground garden, involving your kids in gardening can be a fun and educational activity. I should also mention that gardening can occupy a toddler for hours, resulting in rockstar naps and a sound night’s sleep.
Here are a few ideas to involve your children in a garden or gardening project this summer.
- Visit a gardening store or a seed store as a family. My favorite store in the metro this time of year is Planters in River Market, because there is so much to explore (side note: their spices and spice blends are to die for!). We usually buy most of our seeds and starts at Earl May Nursery in Shawnee, because it’s close to our house, and they have a wider selection of starts than other stores I’ve visited. If your child has a favorite fruit or vegetable or gravitates toward a certain flower or plant, look for it in a seed packet or as a start and show your child. Explain, “This tiny seed is where [carrots] come from!” If you have the right growing conditions for that plant (see packet or ask a store associate), considering buying it and making it “their” plant (responsibility to plant, water, weed, and harvest).
- Involve your child in a gardening project! It doesn’t have to be big or involved — planting flowers in pots for your front step (and then letting them water them a few times per week with their own watering can. I love this one by Hape), planting an herb garden in pots or a gutter garden, or creating a kid’s-sized worm farm are all examples of relatively simple projects to get you started. Let them get dirty and then spray them off with the hose! Our daughter does just about everything with us in our in-ground garden, from planting seeds to raking dirt to harvesting. This year, she has enough arm strength to manage our sprayer attachment on the hose, so I have a feeling we’ll have a few loads of muddy, wet clothes to wash this summer!
- If you have a larger garden or several raised bed plots, make “checking the garden” a daily ritual. My favorite memories of last summer were watching my husband and daughter walk out to the garden each night after supper to “check” the garden. Before vegetables were ready for harvest, they would observe the plants to see how much they had grown (measure your plants against the height of your child, celebrating each big milestone, “The [pepper] plants are up to your waist!”), look for/pull weeds, and water the plants. As the crops started producing, they would take out containers each night to pick what was ready (picking strawberries and cherry tomatoes are her favorite), and when they brought everything inside, our daughter proudly showed off what they harvested and would help sort it for storage (you can make this an educational game, asking your child to count the number of tomatoes, sort the vegetables by color, etc).
- Not interested in having your own garden? Make it a point to visit one of the MANY farmer’s markets in the KC metro this summer! My favorites are City Market, the Overland Park Farmer’s Market, and the Merriam Farmer’s Market. Take one Saturday morning per month (or more!) and set it aside as “family market day” (consider going to a different market each time!). Arrive early, bring your coffee, and let your kids pick out their own homemade breakfast treat from one of the vendors. Visit various stands and teach your kids about the vegetables you’re seeing, such as, “This is [kale]! Mommy puts kale in her smoothies every morning!” Some vendors will hand out free samples or will jump right in to the conversation to help teach your kids about their produce. Encourage your older children to ask the vendors questions as well. You can also bring along a recipe and have your kids help find and purchase the ingredients at the market. Then make and enjoy the recipe together when you get home.
Here’s to your summer gardening adventures and to gorgeous, summer days filled with fresh, local produce in KC!
You can follow the gardening and preserving adventures of myself, #oldmanroebuck, #tinygreenthumb, and #babygreenthumb (coming June 2015), on Instagram at roebuckfarms.