A garden can be a wonderful place for children. Gardens provide opportunities for playing, learning, and having fun.
As our society becomes more urbanized and less connected with nature, gardens provide chances for children to learn about nature, how to grow food, and the importance of the natural world. Gardening with children can take place at home, at school, and/or at after-school programs.
Some Basic Tips for Gardeners Working with Kids:
- A picture is worth a thousand words. Never tell kids something you could show them.
- Young kids have a very short attention span. Make sure that you have lots of options available so they can get started immediately and stay busy. Digging holes is one thing that seems to hold endless fascination.
- Instant gratification helps a lot. Plant radishes even if you don't like them-they come up in three or four days.
- Growing their own will generally get kids to try eating things they otherwise wouldn't walk into the same room with.
- GETTING DIRTY IS AN INTEGRAL PART OF GROWING UP.
- Your role should be as facilitator rather than as a leader who imposes direction. Be a good model.
- When giving out supplies to several kids, try to keep seeds, tools, etc. as similar as possible to avoid the inevitable squabbles.
- After an activity, do something to reinforce what everyone has learned. Talk about what went on, who did what, who saw what. If you can, have them write things down or draw pictures. If they're too young, take dictation.
- Many kids who won't talk in a large group will often speak easily in a small group.
- When working with older kids (past about 13), one-to-one works better than groups, since gardening (and anything else that could get you dirty) is a remarkably un-cool and disgusting way to spend time. Try to add responsibility and ownership to projects. ("Quincy is in charge of the wheelbarrow today.") Try pairing up older kids with younger ones. Rest assured that if you give them a healthy respect for gardens and green things when they are young, it will stay with them throughout their lives.
- Children are very sensitive to lead poisoning and should take precautions when working in the garden.
Information originally provided by the American Community Gardening Association.
Other Youth Gardening Information
School Gardening Information
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's Junior Master Gardener program has gone from an idea introduced two years ago to one that involves more than 1,200 youth in horticulture-related fun, service and learning opportunities.
Lelia Kelly is the state coordinator for the Mississippi State University 4-H Junior Master Gardener program. JMG, as it is known, targets young people in grades three through eight, but it is for any group of youth, not just school classes.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A group of 105 youngsters in Kossuth have included gardening in their classroom activities and become the first Junior Master Gardener group in the state.
In November, the Kossuth Aggie Junior Gardeners registered as Junior Master Gardeners. The fifth graders' teachers began teaching a gardening curriculum and the classes began working in their outdoor classroom at the school. The group studies environmental and horticultural topics, does hands-on activities, and has the opportunity to take on community leadership projects.