A family garden offers lessons in work, money, science and life
By Debra Hart, for utahvalley360.com
The fresh spring and summer days may find you out in the garden, toiling away in the soil and weeds.
This year, instead of nagging at your children or grandchildren not to touch the garden — why not invite them in?
On a sunny day, kids and dirt seem to go together like hornworms on a tomato plant — and they can cause just as much damage to your garden, too.
However, if guided and encouraged, lessons await. Additionally, you can turn gardening into an opportunity to spend quality time with your kids.
Rose Ann Thomas, of Orem, has her grandkids help her garden “as soon as they’re big enough to walk.” She says her grandson, Geoffrey Thomas, now 8, handled his own row of carrots by age 2.
“If you let them grow something they like, they are more interested in taking care of it,” Rose Ann says.
A day spent outdoors, digging and wiggling bare hands into the earth, can be rejuvenating. Kids enjoy admiring God’s unique garden creatures.
Tomato hornworms — a curse in other gardener’s havens — are just waiting to be inspected, poked and admired by children (and then relocated to a new home, far away from the garden). After a day of admiring a glorious hornworm, the perfect ending for young ones might be a bedtime story reciting “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle.
In addition to being great worm warriors, equipped with the correct tools and enough imagination, kids are great weed warriors. Make a game of it — see who can gather the most weeds, the tallest weed and the weed with the longest root.
Reon Cowan, of Eagle Mountain, grew up gardening with her father. She cherished the time working in the garden because “it was time spent with dad. We did it as a family.”
At planting time, her father would dig and let the kids put the plants in the holes. Then he filled the holes with water and the kids would get to play.
“We always loved to help plant and then play in the mud,” Reon says.
Planting time is also a great opportunity to help young children practice counting, sorting and matching skills.
Older children can help plan the garden plot, mark the planting/harvesting schedule on the calendar, prune plants, sell the harvest or show it at local fairs.
This is a great chance for some homegrown lessons in math (counting the seeds, plants and harvest), planning (scheduling the planting, fertilizing, watering and harvesting), economics (buying the seeds, fertilizer and tools and then selling the harvest), and charity (sharing the garden’s excess).
“It teaches them responsibility,” Rose Ann says. “They learn to work, and it isn’t easy, but it’s good for their health.”
Harvest time is the most rewarding adventure, as each child helps pick the fruits of their labor.
It’s a family affair of pickin’ and grinnin’, followed by a ride in the wheelbarrow, snuggled with a rainbow of colorful homegrown fruits and vegetables.
“If you do it as a family, and it’s not just a chore, they are apt to enjoy it more,” says Highland’s Kevin Card. “Another thing that gets [kids] excited is unusual things such as giant pumpkins, giant sunflowers or giant corn stalks.”
Reon suggests letting the children choose the crop.
“If they love beans, let them be in charge of the beans,” she says. “It becomes theirs and they get to be the boss of it.”
She says carrots, berries and pumpkins are always favorites with her kids.
If you sow a love for gardening in your children, it will sprout and enrich their lives with an appreciation for nature’s miracles, as well as put healthy food on their table.
“They learn what you sow is what you reap,” Kevin says. “This helps them appreciate the effort it takes to grow something worth eating or showing.”
Debra Hart is a freelance writer who is currently sowing her garden in Eagle Mountain.