It isn’t too far of a stretch to imagine kids gardening and enjoying the act of growing their own food or flowers. So when school lets out for another year and the kids are tugging at your sleeves saying “Mom, what’s there to do?” pull out the kids gardening magazines or seed catalog and get planning.
Without camp, without after school sports, and with no interest in digging along side you in the garden, children are wondering what to do and, for at least part of the day, need some structured activity. Sadly, most kids are at a loss to come up with an activity themselves – especially after spending a busy school year of being dictated to for every waking moment. They rush to get up in the morning, rush around all day at school, get whisked off to sports games and practices, and rush home for dinner, bath and bed. Without supervision and direction, after a few years, they begin to lack in creativity and ideas to play outdoors.
If you are a work at home parent of a school aged child recently released for the summer you’ll be looking for ways to get them into the yard and out of your office. Even if you aren’t working at home, but trying to get household chores carried out for the day plus find a few relaxing hours in the garden, you have to find a way to get them outside with you – for at least part of the day – and interested in something.
But what are they going to do when they get there? By the end of the summer they’ll have their favorite games and local friends to play with, but in the meantime, when you tell them to get outside they’ll drag their heels to get out the door. Regardless of your childrens ages, it is important they get off the video games and television and get outside. A cheap summer pool, a badminton net, or even horseshoes can get them started playing in the backyard. With so much to do outdoors, they will never have a dull moment. And if you can get them into some kids gardening activities, you could be creating a fulfilling lifetime hobby.
The benefit to keeping children moving and playing out in your yard are many. Exercise, vitamin D, social interaction with other families, and some fresh air. Getting outside and engaged in any activity is a great way to burn calories and stay fit. What they learn now they will carry into their lifetimes, active children grow to be active adults. Active adults are healthy and happier adults. So, while all activities may burn calories and keep your childen fit, some backyard activities burn more than others. Consider swimming, basketball, or volleyball.
Depending on the age of your child, some gardening may also help them develop a passion for the outdoors. When you get your kids gardening you are providing them an outlet for creativity as well as a lifetime of practical knowledge. An encouraged child, from a very young age, is one that will have a lifetime of enjoyable outdoor experiences. Start them in the garden, growing their favorite foods, and in a few years you’ll be taking them on nature walks for their love of wildlife, botanics, bird watching and more. It is never too late. Even for children who have no desire. If you must, bribe them with chores for treats or time together. When I was a super-busy, work at home mom with just one child who always wanted companionship, I’d often get her help in the garden for equal time in play. One hour of weeding, for her, meant one hour of reading together in the evening. She made the rules. Sometimes we’d swap garden plant shopping hours for cooking together time. No matter the age of your child, you can negotiate time, treats, or freedom.
In addition to adapting your child to actually enjoy the gardens, yard and outdoors in general, you may find that this blossoms into a love for nature and a new interest in learning about the world around them. Almost any young child loves to explore. Together you can explore everything that your back yard and nearby hiking trails have to offer. If you consider purchasing books or resource guides on birds, wild animals, bugs, plants, and flowers, you can turn an average day in the garden to a wonderous afternoon of exploration.
Otherwise, if your child is more about sports than discovery, it doesn’t cost much to pick up a volleyball or badminton net. Lawn bowling or dart sets, croquet, frisbee, or a swimming pool. Backyards are tons of fun in the summer, but even better when you add a few friends. Great socialization for the home schooler and a great way to stay in touch with school friends for every other child. Set up a play date, or even a swap with other mothers. Sleepovers and weekends work well as they give each set of parents a little time off to spend just with their spouses and let old friends catch up with a summer full of activities. Who knows? You might just end up with one more garden fanatic on your hands and a whole lot of extra help to weed or bring in the harvest!