It’s finally spring, and for many of us, that means digging and tinkering in the garden. We’ve got some ideas to get kids in the garden, learning about how produce grows, and putting their hands in the soil -- without digging up your tomato seedlings.
Kid-Friendly Play Gardens
If you already have a keen gardener or flower-picker on your hands, consider giving them a section of garden to call their own. Choose a corner of the yard that’s been neglected, or a large container, and let them have at it. They can research the kinds of plants that they’d like, plant them, decorate the area, and then watch the magic happen. You can even spray paint a small picket fence to set off the little ones’ greenery.
Fairy gardens are whimsical miniature gardens with small structures (think mushroom houses or train tracks) as well as living plants. The sky’s the limit when it comes to what can go inside, but most will include small figurines. Fairy gardens exist just as much to play with and be tended to as they are to look at, though they are very sweet to see. Who knows? You might even lure a fairy or two to your house if you make a very inviting garden, and you’ll get a little good luck out of the deal.
A Green Place to Play
Every kid wants a private place to hide and attend to the important business of pretending and dreaming. A secret hiding place outside makes any backyard into a secret garden. Beans can be trellised into a shelter. Build a “trellis house” with a roof, and train vines over it. Whack the bottom out of a bushy area for a fort or cave. Gather any fallen branches from all those winter storms and see what the kids can build. And if you don’t have the space to promote this kind of outdoor play, there are always field trips to Westmoreland Park Nature Play for fort building.
Easy Plants for Kids to Grow
Some plants are easier than others. Set your garden up for success by choosing a few of these.
Sunflowers: They’re dramatic, kids know and love them, and you can eat the seeds when they’re done.
Peas: Peas can be started indoors and then transplanted to the garden, where they’ll need to be trellised. But once you get the trellis going, they’re easy to grow and fun to pick and eat.
Strawberries: Oregon strawberries are sweet and fragrant, and nothing’s better than spotting a red, shining fresh berry on your plants. Better plant more than you think you need, because between the birds, squirrels, and kids, you’ll want to be able to snack on a few yourself! Containers work great if you have limited space.
Radishes: Impatient kids? Radishes grow quickly. They’re also a good choice for indoor sprouting experiments for this reason.
Carrots: Not only are they easy, but they’re one fun and satisfying for kids to pull out of the ground. Get rainbow carrots for an added surprise.
Here at Kids at Heart, we love helping kids develop a love of nature and gardening. Young kids can help tend the plants with the Watering Can Set from Green Toys, or enjoy the movement in Usborne's Pop-up Garden book. Older kids can create a growing windowsill abode with My Fairy Garden's Magical Cottage, or try Creativity for Kids' Plant a Pizza Garden. And while Portland is a very green city, families will enjoy Peter Brown's classic urban gardening story, The Curious Garden.