If you're planting a vegetable garden this year, you probably wouldn't mind a little help from your children. But what do you do if they're just not into shoveling and pulling weeds? Here are a few ideas to entice kids to help:
1. Plant Fast-Growing Vegetables
Children aren't exactly known for long attention spans (and, okay, some of us grownups aren't either), so they can get tired of waiting for slow-growing veggies to look like something interesting. Why not plant something like radishes, which, depending on the variety, can grow to maturity in a few weeks? Or those little Parisian carrots (50 to 60 days to maturity)?
You also might "cheat" and pick up some vegetable starts from the nursery (or start some of your own). This way, you can put already-thriving plants into the garden, so the kids aren't just wandering out to stare at the dirt. Before long, they'll be picking those pea pods off the vines.
2. Plant Their Favorites
This one probably goes without saying, but most kids are more excited about munching from a strawberry patch than a broccoli plant. If your little ones enjoy carrots more than brussel sprouts, make sure plenty of their favorites go into the beds. It's a lot easier to get them to help harvest vegetables they'll enjoy eating raw right out of the garden than ones they'd prefer never showed up on the dinner table.
3. Plant Heirloom or "Fun" Varieties of Vegetables
Some kids may be skeptical of veggies that don't look like the ones they're used to (AKA store-bought varieties), but the adventurous sorts may be tickled to try yellow and green tomatoes with funky bumps and bulges. And why limit yourself to plain old orange carrots when you can have purple, red, and yellow ones? You could plant a mix and have fun guessing what color the carrot will be before the children dig them up.
4. Get Kid-Sized Gardening Tools
While your trowel and hand rake might suit you fine, your kids might be tickled to have their very own gardening tools. Several outfits make colorful tools that are perfect for kid-sized hands. They're usually not that expensive either so it's less of a big deal if the kids leave them out in the rain (your $60 Felco pruning sheers may be a different story!).
5. Release the Insects!
You've probably heard of beneficial insects, the little buggers that eat the pest bugs harassing your leafy greens. One of the more popular species (probably because they're the least weird looking!) is the good old lady bug. Did you know that you can buy them in bulk to release into your garden? (The jury is out on how helpful this actually is because a lot of them are likely to fly away, but they don't cost a lot and even kids squeamish about insects might enjoy this activity.)
Other predator insects, such as green lacewing and the infamous preying mantis can also be purchased for release. Not only can this be a fun event for the kids (you might even be able to make a science project out of it), but adding some of these guys to your yard may help naturally control pest insects.
There you go, five ways to make gardening more fun for your kids!
Once you've got your children helping with the veggie-growing chores, your time outside will be more entertaining and the weeding might just get done a little more quickly. As an added plus, the kids will learn to enjoy growing and eating fresh, natural vegetables that are better for them than the store-bought ones shipped from the other side of the planet.
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