A garden can be a wonderful place for children. Gardens provide opportunities for playing, learning, and having fun.
As our society becomes more urbanized and less connected with nature, gardens provide chances for children to learn about nature, how to grow food, and the importance of the natural world. Gardening with children can take place at home, at school, and/or at after-school programs.
Some Basic Tips for Gardeners Working with Kids:
- A picture is worth a thousand words. Never tell kids something you could show them.
- Young kids have a very short attention span. Make sure that you have lots of options available so they can get started immediately and stay busy. Digging holes is one thing that seems to hold endless fascination.
- Instant gratification helps a lot. Plant radishes even if you don't like them-they come up in three or four days.
- Growing their own will generally get kids to try eating things they otherwise wouldn't walk into the same room with.
- GETTING DIRTY IS AN INTEGRAL PART OF GROWING UP.
- Your role should be as facilitator rather than as a leader who imposes direction. Be a good model.
- When giving out supplies to several kids, try to keep seeds, tools, etc. as similar as possible to avoid the inevitable squabbles.
- After an activity, do something to reinforce what everyone has learned. Talk about what went on, who did what, who saw what. If you can, have them write things down or draw pictures. If they're too young, take dictation.
- Many kids who won't talk in a large group will often speak easily in a small group.
- When working with older kids (past about 13), one-to-one works better than groups, since gardening (and anything else that could get you dirty) is a remarkably un-cool and disgusting way to spend time. Try to add responsibility and ownership to projects. ("Quincy is in charge of the wheelbarrow today.") Try pairing up older kids with younger ones. Rest assured that if you give them a healthy respect for gardens and green things when they are young, it will stay with them throughout their lives.
- Children are very sensitive to lead poisoning and should take precautions when working in the garden.
Information originally provided by the American Community Gardening Association.
Other Youth Gardening Information
School Gardening Information
The Mississippi State University Extension Service recently relaunched its Nurturing Homes Initiative. The program’s mission is to improve the quality of the early educational experiences provided in family childcare homes through mentoring, improving the learning environment, and delivering research-based information.
The Pearl River County 4-H Junior Master Gardeners have made some special additions to Poplarville City Park. A new pollinator garden planted in raised beds features a wildflower area, a native plant area, and an herb area.
When teachers and administrators at Leland School Park began taking steps to install a school garden in 2019, they had no idea they would get a first-of-its-kind outdoor classroom.
All third, fourth, and fifth graders, about 650 children, participate in the Junior Master Gardener program, led by Coach Roland “Ro” Román as part of the children’s physical education instruction.
See What’s New in Extension: Extension Supports University's Community Garden, Extension Appoints New 4-H Staff, Extension Landscape Symposium Honors Professor Emeritus, and Extension's Southern Gardener Opens Little Free Garden