Do you find yourself struggling to get your kids involved in the gardening each year?
Oh friend, I completely understand the struggle. For years, my husband and I would be outside working our guts out only to come inside and find our children sitting with their phones or gaming systems in hand looking at us like we were nuts for expecting them to lift a finger.
Well, we knew that this had to change. Not only was farming for a family of 5 too much for two people to carry alone, but it wasn’t right for us to do all of the work ourselves.
So we began brainstorming and found a few helpful tricks that work to get our kids in the garden every year now.
Here is what our family does to make gardening a group effort:
1. Give Them Their Own Garden
As I’ve mentioned before, we are a homeschool family. Until we began homeschooling, I had never thought of giving my kids their own slice of our homestead.
Well, once we became homeschoolers, I suddenly felt inspired to make everything a learning opportunity.
So each spring, each of our kids picks a project. Usually, our youngest creates his own garden and our oldest raises his own poultry.
But I’ve learned that by giving them their own garden (no matter how big or small), it gives them a sense of ownership.
Now, my youngest will start a little garden each year in a small galvanized container. Then when the garden outgrows the container, we find a space for it to grow in our yard.
2. Let Them Start the Seeds
Starting seeds is a big deal around our house. We are big planners, so we love to plan out what we are going to grow, where we are going to grow it, and so on and so forth.
So after all of the anticipation of planning, when it is time to start the seeds, it is a huge deal. Which is why we let our kids help with the process. They love knowing that they had a hand in planting the little seeds that are going to feed our family that year.
Also, they like watching the seeds germinate and caring for them too.
Again, I think it has a lot to do with ownership and feeling accomplished once they sprout, grow, are planted, and produce a bountiful harvest.
3. Get Their Hands Dirty
We all have our money on the fact that when our oldest grows up, he’s going to farm. He is so in love with it already.
For instance, we pruned our orchard this past week, and he was right in the middle of it…at seven years old. He wants to cut the dead from the plants, he likes to haul the branches off, and then he likes to stand around the fire when we burn all of the dead that we cut from the plants.
So it is no surprise that he gets a big thrill out of planting the garden. The main reason is he likes to get his hands dirty. I think it makes him feel like a young man or that he’s one of the guys.
Also, he knows he’s done something that is going to make a difference for our family that year. We depend very heavily upon our garden, so when our kids plant seeds, they are doing a wonderful thing for our family as a whole.
4. Let Them Explore
This is the homeschool mom coming out with me, but if you let kids explore the things that they are curious about, you’d be surprised how interested they become in practically anything.
For instance, when I needed to get my kids interested in gardening, I appealed to their natural interests. My boys are really big on science.
So I set them down, and we watched an episode of Magic School Bus that explains the entire process of how plants grow.
Then when it was time to grow their own gardens, they already felt like smarty pants because they had the scientific explanation for what was going to happen with their seeds.
From there, I let them explore and find answers to questions they naturally developed through the process. We spent a lot of time reading and researching on the internet, but they were learning. And the more they learned, the more they wanted to know. It is really cool just to watch your kids explore the world around them and have fun while doing it.
5. Let the Kids Plant Different Varieties
This was something my husband had a difficult time with. We are always very organized in what we plant. We don’t want to waste money, so we don’t usually purchase seeds that we know we aren’t going to use a lot of to plant.
So when our kids became interested in different varieties of plants, we had to kind of bite the bullet and purchase a few extras so they could enjoy growing different varieties of plants.
However, we learned to shop around to find the less expensive options, and we also learned about new vegetables, how to prepare them, and even found a few that we decided to grow more of. It was a learning experience for all of us, but the kids really enjoyed it.
So if your kids think that kohlrabi looks cool and has a cool name, it might be worth it to purchase the seeds and help them along the way, so that vegetable can come to fruition.
Then you can learn about different ways to prepare it and see if it is something you all enjoy and might want to grow more of as a family.
6. Make it a Competition
This idea might not work for every family, but it worked quite well in our family. I’ll be the first to tell you; I’m not a competitive person. If someone looks at me and says, “I’m going to beat you at ______________.”
Then I usually look back and say, “Okay!” Being competitive just doesn’t spur me on and never has.
However, my boys are incredibly competitive. If one says they can do something in 10 seconds, the other ones swear up and down they can do it in 5 seconds.
So when my husband (who is also a competitive person) got the idea to give the kids different tasks to do around the garden, it was no surprise that he appealed to their competitive nature.
Before long, the garden was looking amazing merely because they wanted to be the best.
So try making gardening into a competition. Divide the garden out into sections and see whose part looks the best after a certain amount of time. If you have competitive kids, then this just might work.
7. Show Off Their Work
This is another big thing we do to encourage our kids in their gardening efforts. My kids respond well to praise. That may sound odd, but not everyone enjoys praise.
Some feel more motivated by competition and critics than they do with praise.
Well, my youngest loves praise. If you tell him he does something well, then he’ll be more motivated than ever to keep growing in that area.
So when he plants his little garden every year, and it begins to outgrow its planter, then we usually transplant his garden right in front of our house. That way every time we walk by it (or if we have company) we can always say, “Look at this beautiful garden our youngest planted.”
Or if it’s just us we’ll say, “Look how great your garden is doing.”
Then he’ll care for that little garden like it was a child to make sure that it grows and stays gorgeous and fruitful.
So when your kids help in the garden, be sure to show it off. Take a picture and put it on social media, brag about it to the grandparents, or comment on it every time you walk past. Even if you have a teenager, they may not respond the same way a seven-year-old would, but it will make them proud and should motivate them to help more often.
8. Transform Their Garden into Meals and Presents
This is another big thing we do every year with our youngest son’s garden. He likes to plant what he calls a “pizza garden.” He is a huge fan of pizza.
So he grows vegetables like tomatoes and peppers with some herbs which are all things you can use to make a fresh, homemade pizza. Which is what we do. When the garden is producing, we’ll either take the ingredients and make a homemade pizza together so that he can see (and taste) his hard work.
Or we’ll gather up some of his harvests and give it to people he knows. Then he can tell them how he grew the harvest himself. You’d be surprised how impressed people are by that and how good it makes him feel.
Then they usually come back and tell him when they’ve used what he gave them and how delicious it was. This is a great reward to a little boy who works his heart out to produce some delicious tomatoes and peppers.
9. Make Their Garden a Big Deal
I’ve already touched on this some in the past few tips, but you should definitely make your child’s garden a big deal if you want their help.
So it will be tempting for you to walk through it and point out all of the things they are doing wrong or things you would’ve done differently.
But don’t do that. Instead, realize they are learning to garden. You don’t want to crush that. If a plant dies, then you can offer some insight.
However, try to point out more what they are doing right than wrong. If you see that their whole garden is going to die simply because they aren’t watering it, then say something.
But then follow up with an offer to help them water it and point out how great they’ve done to get their first garden this far along in the season. It is all about making your kids feel right about learning a new task.
I’ve learned with my oldest, that a lot of times kids won’t try new things just because they are afraid to fail at it.
Yet, if you encourage them and teach them, you just never know how great they could be at something. As I said, I’m amazed every year at what a skill our youngest has developed for growing things.
But our oldest has a skill for being able to design and build handy things. While our middle son has developed a passion for caring for the animals on our farm.
So whatever your kids do, try to encourage them in their efforts. You just never know where that skill set may lead them later in life.
10. Utilize Their Ideas
Our oldest has taught us so much about our farm and especially in our garden. He comes up with ideas that his dad and I just don’t think of.
So if your kids come to you with ideas, this is a great thing. They may or may not work, but don’t crush the concepts before you at least try them.
See, when your kids offer ideas, they are offering to take a role in the process. If you want their help and want them to take an interest, then you have to give their ideas at least a chance.
Then they may surprise you because some of their ideas will be amazing and some maybe not so much.
However, when their ideas fail, a lot of times that will just make them go back to the drawing board and try even harder to find a solution.
Or their idea may cause you to develop another plan that can make all of the difference.
In our case, my husband is always one to bite off a little more than we can handle. Our oldest used to get so frustrated with that.
Then finally, I told him to try to think of a way that we could produce as much as his dad wanted us to as a family but without killing ourselves.
So he came up with a different layout for our garden so that it would break things up a little bit, and we didn’t kill ourselves weeding all of the time. It worked well for us. My husband was satisfied because we were still growing the amount of food we needed, and our oldest felt accomplished because he had come up with a solution for our problem.
11. Let Them Research
Finally, if your kids develop an interest in gardening, then let them research. There are so many different gardening methods, let them see what is out there.
Then they may want to try different gardening methods to see what they like best.
From there, they could develop great ideas that could produce a more significant harvest for your family.
So encourage your children in their research, help them to learn about gardening, and promote their efforts and ideas.
Well, there are my tips for getting your kids involved in the garden.
But now I’d like to hear your thoughts and ideas. What do you do to get your kids involved in the family garden?
We’d love to hear, so drop us a comment in the section provided below.