Today's hectic lifestyles leave families little time to spend together; however, gardening offers a perfect opportunity for a family to share and learn together. Many activities are suitable for family time in the garden, such as:
Plant a tree to celebrate a birth. A tree's growth is much like a child's. It starts small and young, as a seedling. It needs nourishment and watering. Like a young child, a tree goes through growth spurts, passing through juvenility and entering maturity. In maturity, it is able to share with others its fine attributes, such as shade to cool and add comfort to a yard or home, leaves to help make soil-building compost, and sturdy branches from which young children can swing.
Your child can see his or her own growth reflected in the growth of the tree and can appreciate the length of time it takes for a tree to grow to maturity. The love of trees your child gains now will carry on through adulthood.
Learn the names of plants. Spending time in the garden to learn about plants can be fun for parents and children both. In addition to learning about food crops and beautiful flowers, this time is a perfect opportunity to learn which plants or plant parts can be potentially poisonous and how to enjoy the plants safely.
Plant a vegetable garden. The rewards of a vegetable garden are as exciting to adults as they are to children, giving both a sense of accomplishment.
Sharing the joy and excitement or even the disappointment and failure of a vegetable garden strengthens family ties.
Make crafts from garden harvests. Projects, such as making bird houses from gourds grown in the family garden or arranging dried flowers, offer times of sharing for family members.
Share gifts of the garden. Giving gifts of handmade crafts and treasures from the garden is extremely satisfying, and I have never met anyone who was not delighted in receiving such gifts. Even fresh produce, such as tomatoes, squash, and green beans, make terrific gifts for people who do not have a garden. Offering these gifts gives adults and children alike an opportunity to show they care about others.
The garden is a fertile ground of opportunities for families to grow together and learn more about each other while tending the garden.
It offers the opportunity for adults and children to share ideas -- to talk and, most importantly, to listen to each other and, by working together, to communicate the many messages that must be said without words.
Gardening develops self-esteem, a sense of nurturing, and the quality of generosity. The garden is a wonderful family room!
Start now to involve your child in the planning of your spring garden. There are many books for children to educate and excite them about gardening.
Seed catalogs can be a source of fascination and are perfect for craft projects after the plants have been ordered.
Sheri Dorn, Extension Technician, Consumer Horticulture, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0327