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With technology becoming increasingly more accessible through TV, computers, tablets and cell phones, we have instant and constant access to information…and distraction. On the whole, children tend to have more downtime than adults, so finding the right balance of activities to fill that downtime for your kids is really important. Before the days of YouTube, Snap Chat and Tik Tok, a parent may have answered the “I’m bored” plea from a child with “Go outside and play”. Since our technology has provided them with hundreds of indoor options for play, encouraging your child to head to the great outdoors might take some more creative thought. One of the best ways to motivate children of any age is to plan gardening activities for kids to get them directly involved with Mother Nature.
At this young age, children love to explore textures and are capable of using some basic tools. This is the perfect time to take them outside to dig a hole and play in the mud. Let them make a real mess of things and provide them with a hose or a bucket of water. Children also love to imitate adults at this stage. The next time you head outdoors to rake the leaves, pull weeds or take care of some pruning, consider having your toddler tag along. Consider investing in a child-size rake and encourage them to rake an area of leaves all on their own. Assign them an inconspicuous area to pull weeds…or grass just like you. If pruning is the task, let them try to pull the leaves from the branches you have cut or assist you in picking the branches up.
Between the ages of 5-10, children will have a much greater sense of awe and appreciation for making things grow. This is the perfect age to start a small in-ground garden. If space is limited, then consider teaching them how to create a container garden. Children of this age still have relatively limited attention spans, so be thoughtful about the size of your garden and select plants that grow or bloom quickly and can but cut for fresh flower bouquets. Fruit, vegetable or herb gardens are also a fabulous idea for kids. Not only will they see things grow, but they will feel great pride in growing something that can feel them and their family. Not to mention the feeling you as a parent will feel knowing you are feeding your child and family food something truly organic!
Kids at this age also love to begin to assert their independence. When the opportunity presents itself, encourage your child to rake with the big rake, let them try their hand at pruning trees and shearing bushes, digging or pushing a wheelbarrow.
At this age, the challenge will be to spark an interest in something other than themselves and their friends. Physically, your teen will be capable of landscaping and gardening tasks which require heavy lifting or operating more complicated tools. While certain yard work such as lawn mowing, mulching or pruning are a reality and might certainly crop up on the list of weekend chores, try to balance that with some special landscaping projects. For example, if you still have an interest in creating a garden, let it be bigger and give it a purpose. Perhaps part of the food you grow in your garden could be donated to someone in need. If your garden bed will contain non-edible plants, give your teen a chance to design it. If that seems too overwhelming of a task, make them responsible for a smaller projects like winter garden bed preparation. You can also take them with you to the nursery to pick out a special tree and dedicate it to someone significant to them.
Landscaping and gardening at any age can be educational, great exercise and create lasting memories that will be far more memorable to your child than any time spent with technology. So plan some gardening activities for kids this weekend that will invite them to enjoy the great outdoors.