Getting down and dirty – you know it’s what every young child loves to do given half the chance and access to a patch of earth. But it doesn’t have to be all mud pies: children love to explore and develop the earthy aspect of their nature; and what better way to learn the vital connection between what we eat and how it’s produced than to give your child some seeds to start planting her favourite organic salad vegetables? It’s the perfect incentive to be outside, come rain or shine, and to learn the rhythm of the seasons, first-hand.
Even a limited amount of green shouldn’t deter a good dig. “You can start with a small patch in a sunny spot, but give your child a sense of ownership by helping her put up a sign that shows it’s her bit of soil,” advises horticulturist and author of Gardening With Kids, Martyn Cox. Caring for plants also teaches the discipline of nurturing something, he says. And if you have a compost heap, they can discover how those veggie scraps break down into super-rich soil (with mini beasts a go-go in situ for live action).
Watching the first green shoots emerge is magical, as is popping a sweet tomato in your mouth. Window boxes are also perfect for small-time horticulturists. Try rocket or lamb’s lettuce, or mixed flowers for those more appreciative
of visual beauty. Sunflower seeds will attract keen interest to see which one grows the tallest.
And if the novelty of gardening wears off, try something different like setting up camp, or picking flowers to hand press and make cards from. You may create a green-fingered habit that keeps your child in good health and eager to explore the joys of nature throughout their life.
This article previously appeared in Junior magazine as a print article