Gardening With Kids :: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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One of my favorite activities for us to do with the kids is to plant a garden. The seeds are affordable, the dirt in our backyard is free and the kids enjoy being a part of growing their own food. But, it’s not all sunshine and roses. Sometimes the kids are less than cooperative, uninterested and just plain lazy. Here is the good, the bad and ugly about gardening with kids.

The Good

1. It’s a teaching lesson kids can get excited about

Gardening teaches kids where their food comes from. Kids are more likely to eat the two millimeter carrot they grew than a full size carrot from the grocery store. Growing it and picking it with their own hands makes it more palatable, for some unknown reason.

2. It helps children relate what they learned in school to real life

Learning about the plant cycle and how plants give us oxygen has really resonated with our kids. Driving down the road we saw trees being cleared out for a development of some sort and my son lamented “oh, they cut down the trees, now there won’t be oxygen.” I know he learned that through our gardens and has made him more aware.

3. It can be easy

This is where it’s best to, in my mother’s words, KISS — Keep It Simple Stupid. Herbs don’t need as much maintenance, sun or care as other flowers, fruits and vegetables. So if you are just starting out, just do a few herbs, like chives, cilantro, rosemary and parsley, in containers.

My son planting seeds, and trampling on others.
My son planting seeds, and trampling on others.

The Bad

1. Herbivores

Deer, bunnies and squirrels are totally cute … when they aren’t eating your garden. This may take some trial and error to see what you can safely plant without being eaten by Princess Sophia’s entourage of animals.

2. The weather

Soon after you plant, it’s entirely possible to get a monsoon in the Midlands which can conceivably ruin your “crop.” Before you plant, check the weather forecast to make sure Noah isn’t building an arc.

The Ugly

1. Small hands can cause big problems

On our planting adventure this year, my son spilled a ton of seeds in the grass, so I full expect a batch of chives in the middle of the backyard. My daughter was bitten by a mosquito and promptly marched her behind back indoors to play princesses.

Gardening is an affordable family-friendly activity.

2. Labeling plants doesn’t always go as planned

Don’t forget something to label the various herbs. I forgot popsicle sticks so we have the ever-so-classy plastic knives to tell us what we are growing.

In the End, it’s Worth it!

Although the kids weren’t perfectly behaved and we will have herbs throughout our backyard, gardening really is a fun way to spend time together as a family. It can be done in small containers or on large farms and not only helps the food budget, but teaches them lifelong lessons about the Earth they will inherit.

What has been YOUR experience gardening with kids? What would you add to the good, bad, and ugly lists?

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Kristen is a wife, mother and full-time special education teacher. Born in Connecticut, she has lived in Washington, DC, North Carolina and now happily calls Columbia home. Her children, the tortoise and the hare, were adopted from South Korea and are now 7 and 4. This “Dawson’s Creek” enthusiast was convinced if she scored a spot as an extra on the show, a famous actor would fall in love with her and whisk her away to pursue a life of parties and Prada. She scored the spot, but not the actor. With a chronic case of Wanderlust, she can be found day-tripping throughout the Carolinas and planning excursions to visit family across the US. She could be a contestant on "World's Worst Cook" as she has ruined instant pudding not once...but twice.

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