Monday, March 06, 2006

Gardening Fun for Children

On a recent trip to my family's favorite retail chain discount store, my 5 year old daughter spotted some adorable gardening tools based on the popular animated children's series, Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Friends. After picking out a bumble bee shaped watering pail, a firefly trowel, and a ladybug shovel, we headed over to the seed packets where my daughter picked out some flower seeds to plant.

I want to encourage my daughter's budding interest in gardening, so I thought this was a fun way to start out, by letting her pick out her very own gardening tools. For now we will just store them in a canvas bag, although the Miss Spider line also had a lady bug shaped carrying case (they even had gardening clogs, which I may go back and buy for my little girl as a surprise).

Because gardening is more of my husband's forte than mine, I thought that I could use a little help in figuring out just how to get started, so I decided to check out the book store for some helpful, kid-friendly gardening books. Here are a few great gardening books that I found for little gardeners:

The Gardening Book by Jane Bull. This is a great beginners gardening book that is chock full of color photos. It contains simple instructions for over 50 really cool gardening projects.

Berry Best Gardening Book: Strawberry Shortcake by Megan Bryant. Little girls seem to love the character Strawberry Shortcake, the sweet-faced girl with the big pink hat (at least my daughter does). My daughter was thrilled when we found this book that could not only teach her about gardening, but also tell her a story about one of her favorite characters.

Wee Enchanted Gardening Kit (Creativity for Kids). We bought this for a gift for my 8 year old niece and it was a big hit. It contains everything you need to create a beautiful little planter, including pots that you paint, seeds and accessories to decorate a little enchanted "fairy" garden.

Roots Shoots Buckets and Boots: Gardening Together with Children by Sharon Lovejoy. This is a lovely book that features "theme" garden ideas like a moon garden and a pizza garden. Although my daughter is a little young to fully understand all of the concepts in this book, older kids will love and appreciate the themes. I do plan to do the fairy garden with my daughter when she gets a little bit older.

If you're looking for gardening tools for your child, check out home improvement stores like Lowes and Home Depot. Besides having everything the adult gardener needs to get started, these stores stock kid-friendly gardening items as well. I remember seeing kid-themed Dora the Explorer and Bob the Builder gardening tool sets last year and my daughter begged me for them then (I didn't give in until this year, though).

After researching the whole gardening thing a little further, I found that it is good to introduce children to the concept of planting plants rather than just seeds. Why? Because young children may grow weary of waiting for the seedlings to sprout-- in fact, they may even become frustrated. And plans that are already established have a much better chance of thriving then, say, the inexpensive seed packets you pick up at the dollar store. That said, I have decided to let my daughter grow some windowsill flower plants for fun, but to concentrate more fully on carving out a small area in our back yard for her to grow useful plants, like a vegetable garden.

Of course this may prove to be a tad more difficult than it seems, as my yard backs to a wooded area that is heavily populated with deer. Last summer my neighbors decided to grow a pumpkin patch, envisioning a Halloween pumpkin carving fiesta by late fall. They actually had a few big pumpkins until the deer got wind of their patch. Aside from the deer problem, though, I think it would be really fun to have my daughter participate in growing tomatoes, green peppers and cucumbers.

So this year we're going to give it a try. Who knows, my daughter and I may both find that we have a love for gardening. In any event, we just can't let those adorable Miss Spider gardening tools go to waste!

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