A beautiful aspect of living in a year-round warm climate is that one can easily grow their own produce. Sharing this magic with children is a wonderful way to expand their appreciation of nature and respect for our planet.
Each and every fruit, vegetable, and herb that sprouts from the damp fresh soil is a tiny miracle, and can be cultivated by our own hands. Perhaps if we can start our children during the impressionable age of innocence, they can develop the knowledge in time to become wiser stewards than their teachers.
Muddy, Yucky, Fun
Beginning to reveal the wonders of plant life and gardening to a toddler is more about having fun than anything else. It is crucial to introduce the skills of creating and caring for our very own budding flora through the eyes of our little ones, who see the world around us with a flourishing vision of their own.
When you bring your child or grandchild out to the planned garden site for the first time, let them explore it in the way that any child would. Let them get dirty. For weeks, I tried to prevent my son from grabbing handfuls of dirt every time we went outside, before realizing I should be encouraging his curiosity in the earthy floor below us. Once dressed in his gardening best (an old cloth diaper over his birthday suit), we watched while he happily met the ground and studied each facet of it. Tiny rocks, bugs, and sticks can be more enthralling than a video game any day! Try to schedule this special introduction for your young gardener when there is plenty of time for them to make discoveries, and a long bath can be next on the list.
Tasks for a Tot
Once they’re ready to begin digging holes (if they haven’t already started) and planting tiny new friends into the ground, take a trip to the local nursery or hardware store to pick out some low-maintenance plant species that suit your climate. We enjoy planting flowers and decorative plants for looks as well.
Sometimes it’s nice for the kids to have their own little garden, where they can see their very own handiwork thrive. Consider marking off a space for them, planting a sign that reads, “_____’s Garden.”
My toddler’s favorite part about gardening is watering the plants! In extra warm weather, this ends up being a chance to get completely soaked. At the age of two, he can hold the hose by himself and count to five as each plant gets a quick drink. When that gets boring, he has a blast running in the shower that I create by placing my thumb into the stream of water. Watering the plants has become a daily routine that he looks forward to each afternoon.
Lastly, you can also teach your child to help you pull weeds. It is important to keep a sharp eye on which plants they are pulling up, since everything is green to them! This is a task that my son and his father enjoy at least once a week. They quietly sit side by side and work on the small garden bed in front of our patio. It is one of the rare times that our son manages to sit still for more than five minutes!
Planting the Seed of Creativity
While showing your child how to grow their own plants, you can experience the joy of seeing the mind of such a young person grow. Gardening can be quite the learning opportunity for the sponge-like, hungry mind of a toddler. They can learn their colors by watching each blooming shade freckle the earth. They can also learn the charming feat of patience, knowing that maybe tomorrow that bud will open, or that tomato will be ripe enough to pick. They can also see that they can make a difference in the world, be it only in their front yard to begin with.
This may be their first chance to really create something of their own, so why not let it be an effort to make the world around them more lovely? Years down the road, those plants and trees might still be there to grow alongside your own sweet sprout, who will never forget them.
[quote_box_center]She’s a mother, blogger, and world traveler. Now Emily R-P Shea is the first columnist of our new section “The Great Escape” featuring articles written by a small handful of US expats who have some amazing stories to tell. From why they chose to live in Costa Rica to how to raise a more eco-friendly baby, The Great Escape will be a great reference as well as fascinating entertainment for all travelers who find themselves in paradise.[/quote_box_center]