Gardening with children
Posted Thursday, August 2 2012 at 16:47
For those of us with children and who also have a passion for plants and gardens, it is very important to include the children in our gardening activities.
In Kenya, we are fortunate to have a climate that encourages healthy outdoor living for most of the year and we can take advantage of this by encouraging our children to play in and enjoy the garden instead of sticking indoors in front of the television, the computer and the mobile phone.
The garden can accommodate a sandpit where the very young can play for hours and as they grow up they can graduate to a swing, hung from a suitable branch of a tree and then to a tree house, which they can design and build from simple materials.
If you have a swimming pool, make sure that this is securely fenced off, as you don’t want a toddler falling in during an unwatched moment.
Of course, as soon as they learn to swim, it is another matter because then you can’t keep them out of the water for all the fun and games they can have and the noise they can make!
If space allows, a wide stretch of lawn is great to have for kicking and throwing a ball around but watch out for the occasional broken window.
It is amazing how many of the sports stars of the world first found they had good hand/eye coordination by playing with a ball in the garden.
Also from quite an early age, it is good to encourage the young ones to learn about plants. If possible let them have a small part of the garden to plant their own seeds and plants.
It is best to start with seeds that will germinate quickly so that they have the thrill of seeing the small green shoot as it pushes up through the soil.
Beans and peas and tomatoes are good examples that you can eat, and even maize although these take a longer time before you can eat the crop.
Flower seed is also good for the young particularly plants like nasturtiums and pansies, that germinate and grow quickly.
The children can learn how and when to transplant using soil and compost. It is also interesting to hear how many of today’s experts on plants became interested as a result of learning with their parents in the garden and how many have specialised in succulents and cacti as a result of buying or being given a tiny cactus plant when they were only 6 or 7 years old.
Another fun thing to do with children is to plant a tree with them when they are, say, 4 or 5 years old. This is best done at the start of the rainy season.
You can get a young tree that is only a little bigger than them at one metre tall and then they can measure themselves against the tree at each birthday.
Of course the tree will before long grow much taller than them win but they will remember its age and learn how long some trees will live.