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Garden Beautiful

Children in the Garden – Your garden, big or small, can be a veritable feast of curious delights for young children and is full of wonderful teaching opportunities too.  And the really great thing is it’s never too early or too late to start. 

Take your newborn out for a stroll in the garden or sit down among your plants and read to him or her.  A poem about gardens or flowers or anything connected to plants will do, Round and Round the Garden and Incy Wincy Spider are good choices to start with.  Point out some of the things in your garden that are mentioned in the poem. 

As they get older still let them make up their own poems and stories about the plants in your garden.  Maybe you can start them off with the first sentence or maybe with a title – At Night in the Garden – or something like that.  You might be surprised by your child’s whimsy.

 

Letting them make up their own names for the different plants and flowers also gets their imaginative juices running.  To make sure you remember the new names, you can let your child make up little signs and post them in front of the appropriate plants.  Children love showing off and they’ll soon be offering your visitors garden tours so they can flaunt their knowledge.

You can also teach your child about textures, shapes and colors by letting them see and hold different leaves and flowers.  Flowers like Cat’s Tails (aka Love-Lies-Bleeding) and the Corallita are particularly fascinating to young ones.  Early in the morning, bring scent into the act too by letting the children sniff at jasmines and other sweet-smelling flowers.  Point out any bees hovering nearby and explain why they are important in the garden and why so many of the white flowers are scented.  (It’s because they have to work harder to attract pollinators.)

Go on a bug hunt with your intrepid young ones and take along a magnifying glass and an insect or bird guide.  Explain the life cycle of a butterfly and the basics of your garden wildlife’s food chain.  Tell them the Crested Anole puffs out his throat fan to scare off other anoles

 

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But what if your budding horticulturalists (pun intended) want to take a more active role in the garden?  That’s easy.  Clear out a sunny patch and turn it over to them.  Let them plant whatever their hearts desire, within reason.  Little hands handle big seeds more easily so you might want to start them out with sunflowers, that grand stand-by.  Watermelon, pigeon pea or paw-paw seeds are also good choices.  They can sow the seeds in peat pots or sow them directly in the ground (mark their location with pegs).

Children will rarely confine themselves to one type of plant in their plots.  They like variety.  Annuals like Cosmos provide quick gratification as do herbs like mint and basil.  Tomatoes and sweet peppers also tend to be popular with the shorties.  Of course, the greater the variety in the garden, the greater the variety of out-of-the-garden delights your plants will offer.  Press the flowers and use them in art projects.  Include mint satchets you make with your child among party favors.  Use those tomatoes and peppers for a tasty pizza and you’ve extended your little one’s appreciation of the garden and her own green thumb in a new way.

Children love gardens but a few dangers can lurk there.  Do make sure that all fertilizers and pest control sprays and liquids are securely locked away out of the child’s reach and do acquaint yourself with some of the poisonous plants you may want to avoid planting. 

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