Browsing Tag

get outdoors


5 Tips for Gardening with Kids

My Nan patiently showed me how to use the cultivator to create a long furrow in the ground where I would plant my seeds.  First sprinkle in the fertilizer, then the seeds. Careful! Spread them out so they have room to grow. Then cover and pat down the soil on top. Water, and you’re done.

Well, until it’s time to thin out the growing plants. And weed. And water again. And check for pests. And so on.

I started gardening with my grandmother when I was a toddler. She loved to involve me and my brother, though she was careful to give each of us our own area to plant. She was a bit of a perfectionist, and it wouldn’t do to have us mess up the half acre of crops we were actually planning to eat over the winter! We each had a space for vegetables, and another for flowers. We learned about transplanting, how to identify weeds, how much fertilizer to use, and more. It was a great lesson to learn where our food comes from. Actually, I think I was in school before I realised most people bought their potatoes at the store! Who knew!

These days I try to involve Boo in the garden as much as possible, and he does enjoy helping out and watching our plants grow. But it’s not always easy to drag him away from his Lego and his games. Here are a few tips and ideas that I’ve found work well to engage kids in the garden.

1. Let them choose the plants. Vegetable garden? Ask what your child would like to grow, with the knowledge they’ll be able to eat it later. Flowers? Do they have a favourite colour they’d like to enjoy in the garden? By letting them make these decisions, they’ll be more inclined to get involved in the planting and care of the plants. For instance, Boo really wanted to plant milkweed in our garden, to encourage monarch butterflies and aid in their conservation. So we did that this weekend, and he was 100% engaged in the process and super excited to see how they do.

2. Set them up for success. Some plants are easier to grow than others. Nan set us up with radishes and leaf lettuce because they were fairly foolproof, meaning we would have a high chance of actually getting an edible harvest. Success is encouraging and much more likely to lead to a continued love of gardening.  I planted asparagus this year, but I’d never suggest this for a child, as you have to wait at least two years before you can begin to harvest. A crop like peas or beans will show quick results that will be much more satisfying for a child.

3. Tap into their interests.  There are lots of different pieces to gardening – digging in the dirt, choosing plants, watering, weeding. Boo loves to draw and is proud of his writing as well. So, last year I got him to make the row markers for our veggie patch.

4. Put them in charge.  As my grandmother did for us, give them their own little plot of land or a special container for their chosen plants. Give them full responsibility. Let them do the work and feel the full pride of a job well done.

5. Let them get wet. If nothing else, what kid doesn’t love water play? Give your child special responsibility for watering the garden. Let them play with the hose while they’re at it. Be sure to give lots of praise.

Do you garden with your kids or grandkids? What are some of their favourite garden tasks? Do you have any tips to share to help keep them engaged?


Bugs! Summer Fun

There’s a lot of nature right in our own back yards. That nature provides lots of opportunities for fun and learning on these long summer days.

Growing up one of my favourite activities was catching bugs. All kinds of bugs. And snails, and butterflies. My brother and I would place them carefully in jars. We’d puncture holes in the metal lids so our new friends could breathe. And we’d be sure to place in some dirt and grass in the bottom, thinking we were feeding them.  My grandmother was careful to remind us not to keep our friends captured for long. These bugs and butterflies needed to be free.

But for the brief time we had them under glass we would study them, peering at them from all angles to see how they were built and to learn the difference between insects with 6 legs, and spiders with 8. To see the beetles spread their hidden wings. It was fascinating!

These days I have special mesh cages and butterfly nets for Little Boo. But the concept is still the same. Catch, brief capture, study, release. What little boy doesn’t love bugs?!! (Lots of girls too, including me.)

Our bug hunt equipment

You really don’t need much special equipment for your own back yard bug hunt. An empty jar with holes poked in the lid works great. You do want something you can see through and you can close. Bugs move quickly, and if you want some time to get a good look you’ll need to keep them contained. Dollar stores are great places to pick up nets and mesh homes like the ones pictured above. I paid a dollar for the pink and orange bug house. The blue and green one is a sturdy metal from Avon (yep, that Avon), and was about $15, which was crazy for me to spend, but I thought it was cute, and I loved the little perch built inside.

It’s best to hunt for bugs in the early morning or in the evening, when it’s cooler. Look under rocks, or on the leaves in your garden. Earwigs can usually be found in my cherry tree or eating the kale in my vegetable garden. Also, keep an eye out for spider webs and watch to see what they’ve caught and how they trap and eat their food.
Needless to say, you and your kids need to be careful and gentle with these wee creatures. Both for the sake of the creatures and for your own safety. Earwigs will pinch and some spiders will bite, so those aren’t great ones to touch with bare hands. Use gloves or try to scoop with your container’s lid. And for goodness sake be sure to stay clear of bees and wasps! I like to just study those while they’re busy in our flowers.
Not the clearest picture I know, but you can see all the pollen collected on this bee’s legs. Great opportunity to talk about the work of bees and their importance in pollination and growing our food crops.
A big difference with today’s bug adventures is the ready availability of information on the internet. There are so many sites that can help you identify and learn more about the life you find in your backyard. Here is just a sampling from my quick Google search: (submit your images for answers) (geared towards pest control, but you can still use the images for your purposes)
So, what are you waiting for? Why not head out on your own backyard safari and see what you can find? Take pictures before you let the bugs go. And encourage your kids to keep a journal detailing what they find, and where they found them. They’ll have so much fun they won’t realise they’re in the middle of a science lesson!