Even if you’re not a dedicated gardener yourself, you can still help your child to experience the joy of growing things. While some of the jobs will not be appropriate for everyone, there are lots of things even very young children can do to contribute, and experience the joy of contributing to a healthy, productive garden.
As with all activities, children will take some time to learn, and also are likely to lose interest before the job is done, so you might need to be prepared to sneak out when they are not looking and complete unfinished activities. Hopefully as they get older they will be more invested in ensuring a job well done!
Toddlers and preschoolers
Toddlers are not very strong or coordinated but, given a suitable tool, they can help dig a patch of soil. If you are planting large seeds (such as peas or beans) lie down a rake (or other long handled garden tool) or a piece of string and ask your child to poke holes along the line with a short stick, then drop a seed into the holes, cover with soil and water. Don’t worry if the seeds are planted at irregular intervals – you can thin or transplant them out once they have sprouted. They can also help to plant seedlings by dropping them in the holes, pressing the soil around and watering.
Your toddler can also help feed the garden by scattering crushed egg shells (rinse before crushing), coffee grounds and used tea leaves. They can dig them in (or flick soil over them) if they wish. If your child can manage safety scissors, they can cut up their banana skin into small pieces and sprinkle around the garden and especially roses if you have any. You might like to dig them in a bit if you don’t like the look of them on the top.
Children from 5 to 10 years
Now that their fine motor skills have developed a bit, primary aged children can add squashing aphids between their index finger and thumb to their repertoire. They can also hunt down snails (which you can dispose of) and also make a slug trap by burying a container in the garden up to its neck, pop some beer in the bottom and wait for the slugs to come for a beer and drown! They can also dead-head flowers and thin fruit trees by nipping off all the fruit in a cluster except one or two at the most.
Now that they are a bit stronger they can water with a watering can (start with the can just half full) or a hose. They can also fill plastic soft drink bottles with water and insert then neck down in the garden near thirsty plants to create a drip watering system.
If you are growing strawberries, your child can make pea straw beds around the strawberry plants for the ripening fruit to lie on.
Harvesting is an exciting part of gardening – together you can label as much of the garden that you can then your school age child can help at meal time by harvesting what you need.
School age children can help with weeding. Start them off weeding around large established plants before you let them near small seedlings as it is easy to disrupt the roots on small plants or confuse seedlings with weeds.
Intermediate age and older
It might start costing you a few dollars but at this age you can really make the most of their labour! They are now old enough to do almost all the garden tasks including mowing, helping with digging, mulching, trimming, harvesting high fruit and even spraying with non-toxic environmentally friendly spray.
For all ages
Written by Robyn
Robyn creates content on Kidspot NZ. Her hobbies include buying cleaning products and wondering why things don’t then clean themselves, eating cheese scones with her friends, and taking her kids to appointments.