Spring is here, and that means flowers are blooming and plants are growing. Now is an ideal time to teach your preschooler about nature, whether it’s a few potted plants inside the house, or a full vegetable garden outdoors. Here are some tips for gardening with small children.
You may have daydreams about gardening side-by-side with your child in the years to come, but it’s important to not overwhelm your preschooler at first. Choose plants or vegetables with large seeds that are easy for your child to handle, and also look for things that grow quickly such as carrots. Take your time, and have conversations with your child about each step in the process. Don’t forget that gardening with a preschooler is less about perfection and more about introducing him to the natural world around him.
Encourage hands-on learning
Nothing is more fun to a preschooler than digging around in the dirt, so gardening is the perfect time to let her indulge. You can turn this fun play into an educational experience by talking about soil and how it feeds plants, or you can ask her to look for worms in the soil as she digs. Let her push seeds into the soil, or help you water plants. The natural curiosity of a preschooler means she will be eager to get involved. It will also foster her sense of responsibility, and allow her to feel like she’s helping with important work.
Choose age-appropriate garden activities
Some gardening activities, such as digging or weeding, are too advanced for preschool-age children. Keep your child interested and safe with garden activities appropriate for his age. You might ask him to help you with harvesting carrots or picking flowers. You can even simply take a walk through your garden or visit your indoor plants, and discuss how they’re changing. If your child seems impatient for “his” sunflowers to grow, you may want to create a visual calendar for him to track its progress.
Keep safety in mind
Of course, safety is paramount in the garden. You already know to keep fertilizers, pesticides, or any harmful gardening tools well away from your preschooler. However, you should also take this time to teach your child to never put any seed, plant or berry in her mouth without asking you first, especially in a garden environment where bright colors can look tempting and delicious to her. You’re well aware of the short attention span of the young child, so be sure to keep constant watch over her in the garden.
Spring is an ideal time to introduce your preschooler to the wonders of nature. Indulge your child’s natural curiosity in the garden by encouraging him to help you with small tasks, and having discussions about the way plants, fruits and vegetables grow. An early interest in gardening can foster a lifelong love of the world around him.