Having the opportunity to garden with kids is pretty refreshing. If you don’t currently have a job that children want to do, stop reading this, write your letter of resignation from your crappy grind, and come back when- like me- you’re (feeling?) as cool as an astronaut.
Perhaps you insist that you must keep your day job because real life, fine. I don’t ‘get it’ but I won’t judge either. You can astronaut on the side, for fun. And if the thought of gardening with little ones – whether at home with your own kids or as part of a community effort – makes you cringe, I’d like to calmly coerce you into jumping off the deep end of a raised bed (no diving) into a land of wonder and weeds.
What’s stopping you?
“Gardening is messy,” you say. Well nay-sayer, ask yourself this: could it be worse than glitter?
“I don’t have a green thumb,” you say. Heed these words (but repeat with caution, given our client in question): “S*it wants to grow,” i.e. get out of the way and celebrate the weeds, too.
Alright, you’re convinced. Perfect. I’ve got three tips and a tenet for you. The rest you’ll figure out on your own; I believe in you (and so do the children, don’t let them down).
1. Determine your growing area and making it visually obvious to the kiddos. Raised beds are not the answer in every growing space. Cedar boards screwed together are not the universal answer. Straw bales, branches, stakes with twine – be creative, be scrappy, make it easy. Walk here, grow there. Kids 3 and under do very little damage to crops underfoot, by the way, so take it easy on the jaywalking tickets for toddlers.
2. Is everything touchable? The standard suggested dimensions for raised beds are 4’x8′. Why? Build your beds at an appropriate width so little ones can reach everything in it! Try putting stepping stones in the center of a bed as a place to stand to harvest your cherry tomatoes.
3. Check out my graph of the inverse relationship between child’s age and the minimum size of seed they can be expected to handle with expert-like dexterity:
Get it? Older kids can handle smaller seeds. Little hands manage the bean and garlic department.
Lastly, a tenet.
Maria Montessori is quoted as having said, “Play is the work of children.” I suggest setting up the garden so children can explore, observe, discover, and wonder without a lot of “No” getting in the way. If you see critical destruction occurring, consider the design flaw that made it possible. I hope your garden has the fluidity and flexibility to follow one of my main management principles: If it’s not wrong, it’s right.