Children and gardening is a match made in heaven. They are both about starting small, growing, depending on others, and finally turning into something very special. Still, not every parent, grandparent or care provider has a green thumb. Nor does everyone have a backyard primed for planting. And some of us have little gardening wisdom to impart. Still, we have stories to share, tons of resources and glorious books to read with kids. Virtual gardening is a great option.
Experienced gardeners and those who remember the farm or stories of rural life know the routine. Though life experience is always the best teacher, book stores and libraries offer rich collections of good reads that introduce kids to the many facets of gardening – books that tell the garden story at a pace kids can comprehend, with options for experienced gardeners to elaborate on the text and illustrations.
Though authorities would probably promote connecting kids and gardens during the spring planting season, I think harvest season works as a good alternative. A rich harvest shows the result of plant growth coupled with the caring hands of the gardener. Kids appreciate the beauty of a blooming rose and the great taste of strawberries and corn on the cob. Knowing the ROI they can track back to learn about the process that transforms the inert seed into an edible product or visual treat.
As with any list, this a pitifully inadequate representation of the possibilities – just a nudge to remind us all that a good story can be the best teacher:
- Alison’s Zinnea, by Anita Lobel. Alison gives an amaryllis to Beryl who bestows a begonia on Crystal. You get it – an alphabet book about plants.
- Beautiful, by Susi Gregg Fowler. A story about the gift of gardening and watching that gift blossom. Centers on the relationship between a garden, an uncle and his nephew.
- Isabella’s Garden, by Glenda Millard. A picture book
- And Then It’s Spring, by Julie Fogliano and Erin E. Stead. A picture book
- The Carrot Seed, by Ruth Krause. A picture book
- And the Good Brown Earth, by Kathy Henderson. A grandma and a young boy go through the planning, planting, weeding/watering, gathering seasons.
- Flower Garden, by Eve Bunting. A family creates a window box garden in a city apartment.
- Farm, by Elisha Cooper. Life on a family farm in the Midwest.
- Caterpillar, caterpillar, by Vivan French. Nettles aren’t just nasty weeds, they provide shelter and food for caterpillars that turn into butterflies.
- The Tiny Seed, by Eric Carle. Check for the beautifully illustrated YouTube supplement.
- Yucky Worms, by Vivian French. Grandma and child explore how earthworms help plants grow.
Good reads for grownups
- The shelves are loaded with books for grownups – ideas, resources, advice.
- A Child’s Garden: 60 ideas to make any garden come alive for children, by Holly Dannenmaier.
- Gardening with Children, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Guide for a Greener Planet. Ideas for 40+ garden-related projects.
- Geography of Children; Why Children Need Wild Places, by Gary Paul Nabban. Making sure your garden is “where the wild things are.”
- Touch a Butterfly: Wildlife gardening with kids, by April Pulley Sayre. Creating a garden that invites wildlife.
- The Green Hour: A Daily Dose of Nature for Happier, Healthier, Smarter Kids, by Todd Christopher.
Lots of websites
- Green Grandparents
- Children and Nature Network (http://www.childrenandnature.org/)
- Junior Master Gardener (http://www.jmgkids.us/) a 4-H youth development program sponsored by Extension.
- Kids Gardening ( www.kidsgardening.org/) The National Gardening Association site.
- PBS Victory Garden: Gardening with kids ( http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/victorygarden) Accompanies the public television program.
- National wildlife: 16 Tips for Wildlife Gardening with kids (http://www.nwf.org/News-and-Magazines/National-Wildlife/Gardening/Archives/2010/Wildlife-Gardening-with-Kids.aspx
- Thyme 4 Kids, http://www.herbsociety.org/resources/t4k/thyme-4-kids.html Site sponsored by the Herb Society of America.