Gardening with Kids
This is my first summer at home full time with the kids. I stopped working outside the home at the end of last summer after the garden was established and in full swing. Then, our youngest child was not yet walking, and our oldest was in summer camp.
As this summer approached and my oldest son graduated from kindergarten, I had visions of me and the boys spending joyous hours working side by side in the garden. They would be the most helpful kids; bringing me my tools, playing nicely together, and discovering the love of gardening. This was not the case.
To get a sense of what I have to work with, let me introduce my boys:
Likes: Legos, video games, drawing, and building things
Dislikes: Flying Bugs and being outside when it’s hot
Age: 20 Months
Likes: Food, dirt, rocks, mud, grass, harassing the dog, harassing his brother, breaking things, jumping off of things, general destruction.
Dislikes: Being told no
Our Gardening with Kids Story
When Jacob was younger, he did show some interest in the garden. He was our first child, so Mark and I made sure he was exposed to as many fruits and vegetables early on and we brought him into the garden as soon as he could walk. Like most young children, he enjoyed playing and digging in the dirt and picking vegetables. As he grew older, his interest faded. Gradually he wanted to have less and less to do with helping us in the garden. We did not push it. We figured that eventually he would show interest again.
When Luke came along, Mark and I introduced him to a variety of fruits and vegetables and the garden as well. He loves it in the garden. This child can spend hours outside, rain or shine. He loves getting dirty and he entertains himself with a pile of rocks and sticks. Luke’s extreme enthusiasm for the outdoors does have a downside: he’s a destroyer. We have nicknamed him Tornado Luke. He will create a random path of destruction where ever he goes.
My boys are a study of opposites. So, how do I get any work done? It’s not easy. I have to do everything in small increments. The boys are too young to leave unsupervised in the house, so I do have to bring them with me. With them being 5 years apart, I thought Jacob could minimally supervise Luke as I worked on watering or weeding. It works about 50 percent of the time. Usually about 30 minutes in, they start fighting, Luke has gotten himself into something he shouldn’t and Jacob wants to go inside. Sigh.
I realized that I was taking the wrong approach. I decided to try giving them “jobs”. We go out in the morning before it gets too hot. Jacob doesn’t like the heat, which is unfortunate because we live in the deep south. I let him do some watering. That usually lasts about 15 minutes or so. At that point he has turned the hose on his little brother. Now I have a wet toddler.
Luke ‘s job is to help me weed. He likes to imitate, so I show him what to pull. He generally gets it, but he is a toddler, After a while, he rather wander off and get into trouble else where. Giving them “jobs” have worked out well. But again, only in small increments. Mostly, I let them play and I get to the garden maintenance stuff when I can.
My advice to parents
Be patient. I know, I know. It’s easier said than done. Trust me, I am glad I have tolerant neighbors. They have heard me yelling at the kids: “Jacob, don’t spray your brother!” “Put down the dog poop Luke!” or “Luke, spit it out”( not poop, usually dirt!)
Don’t set your goals too high. I see all these wonderful projects on Pinterest that teach you how to build a fairy garden or making sun catchers with your kids, etc. Yeah, no. That didn’t work for me. My boys will start on a craft and it lasts about 10 minutes and they are ready to move on. I could spend hours on a craft only to have them destroy it the next day.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. They are kids. They have the attention span of gnats. In the end it’s about having fun. They will let you know what works. I have no set agenda when I go out in the garden with the kids.
In the end all I want is for my boys to look back on their childhood and remember the fun days with their family. That is my true goal. If they do not have a garden when they are adults, oh well. It’s the memory that counts. Don’t sweat it moms and dads, have fun.