(As it turns out, there are more Life Lessons in this post about gardening with kids than I planned. So, I split it into 2 parts. This is Part 1 – The first 4 Life Lessons from the Garden.)
Papa and I believe that it’s the little things in life that make the one big whole of it. When we first thought about gardening for kids when our kids were just little, we weren’t sure if we wanted to go through all that trouble just to teach our kids how to work. But as the years went on, we discovered that there was much more to learn from that garden.
How many times have you heard someone say, “I grew up on a farm, and *this* was the lesson I learned”? It seems like all those great stories happened on the farm. Growing up as a city girl, makes me feel like maybe I missed some important life lessons. Now, my kids were growing up in the city too. But by having a garden, I just might be able to impart some of that good old farm wisdom to my kids without having an actual farm.
Our kids thought they were being tortured to have to always work in the garden. They did everything from getting the soil ready for planting to pulling the last pumpkin off the vine in October. Every Saturday morning, all eight of us worked together in the garden.
Now that we have grandkids, we involve them as much as we can during the planting and growing season, but their favorite part is the harvest! So, for the city kids (and farm kids alike), here are some of the lessons you can teach by gardening with kids.
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Gardening with Kids Lesson 1: Start with Good Ground
All good things in life start with a good foundation. In the garden, Papa spends time and effort to till and prepare the ground so that the little seeds will have a great start in life.
Homes are the same way. We can provide a great environment for our kids to thrive and grow. We have tried to keep the same kind of atmosphere in our home for the Littles. Books, good values, home cookin’, and love make up some of those traditions that help the kids bloom. Likewise, the relationships that we cultivate in our homes give us a foundation for the other relationships in our lives. Those family relationships are also important because they provide the security we need to feel confident going out into the world.
Gardening with Kids Lesson 2: We All Need Water & Sunshine
I think everyone knows that without water, everything dies. It’s true of people as well as plants. Is it just me or does it feel like there doesn’t seem to be enough of those things to go around?? Let’s look at this from a metaphorical perspective.
Water is cool, usually calming and has the ability to renew us. For me, there is nothing more rejuvenating than to spend a few days listening to the waves crash on the beach. The water going in and out in that rhythmic lullaby just really does it for me!
For those who are religious, you might also use the metaphor that Christ provides “living water” for our souls. Do we do that for each other? It certainly can’t be that hard to offer calm, comforting words to lift each other up. It really only takes a small bit of effort.
And what about sunshine? Besides the fact that I think that kids absolutely need to play outside more (but. . .that’s a post for another day), sunshine is warm and welcoming. We all need a bit more sunshine in our lives. . .and by that, I mean that we need more positive things coming our way.
The information overload that is shoved in our face every day is not often very positive or uplifting. So, we can teach our grandkids to be the sunshine in someone else’s cloudy day.
Gardening with Kids Lesson 3: From Small Things, Great Things Can Come to Pass
All my life, I have been a little shorty. I am always one of the shortest, smallest people in the room. Because of that, I think that had always thought of myself as being “less than.”
But. . .one day, someone said something that changed everything for me. They told me that dynamite comes in small packages. Ooo la la! That was going to be me! So, even as a “small” child, I decided that I could do great things despite my size – a great lesson to give our grandkids some confidence. Teach them that, like those little seeds that they’re planting, they have great potential!!
The other lesson from this is that small and simple acts of kindness, persistence, endurance, and yes. . .even cruelty can grow into things much larger than we first intend. So. . .we should always be careful what “seeds” we are sowing into other people’s gardens. With bullying being so at the forefront these days, teaching our grandkids to spread a little kindness can change a lot! (See the story in Lesson 7 below.)
Gardening with Kids Lesson 4: We Need Other Critters
Yes, I just said: Critters! Well, I just mean that we need each other – the good and the bad.
Let’s talk about the good first. The social interaction these days is diminishing at alarming rates!! Social media is anything but SOCIAL! Our children need to learn that they NEED each other to show up in person and interact with each other in real life. (Kind of goes back to that needing “literal sunshine” thing too from above. . .)
Can we also just face the fact that none of us can survive alone. We all need each other no matter who we are or what our circumstances are. We simply need other “critters” in our lives. 😉
Now for the bad. . .I know that sounds awful, but the growth that we experience in life can often come at the hands of others who don’t always mean harm but cause us pain anyway. Let me illustrate this with an example from the garden.
When Papa was a little boy, his only job in the garden was to water the tomatoes. Well, like most little people, he saw that as work and immediately decided that he didn’t want to participate. So, when he got in trouble for not watering, he would go out and quickly water those poor little wilting plants. It must have been torture for those tomatoes!
However, what happened when the tomatoes came to maturity surprised everyone. The tomatoes had grown bigger and redder than any crop that they had ever had before! As a little boy, Papa decided that the lesson was that “laziness pays off” – so be careful what lessons the kids think they are learning! 😉 But the real lesson here was that a little adversity made those tomatoes grow bigger and better than expected.
The same can happen to us when adversity hits us. So, when gardening with kids, be sure you point out that even the bad experiences can help us grow.
Whew! When gardening with the kids, it’s easy to find life lessons to teach the grandkids. Join us for MORE Lessons from the Garden in the next installment.
In the meantime. . .
Activities to Do With Kids After the Harvest
Well, I’m sure we can come up with probably dozens of more things to teach some of life’s lessons. Along with the lessons, we also find time for a little fun after the harvest. Here are some of the fun activities that we have done with the kids after the harvest:
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
The Very Hungry Caterpillar is one of our very favorite stories to share with the littlest Littles. We use this book to talk about food choices with the toddlers. They LOVE this story! We always get a good laugh when we get near the end and the caterpillar is now a. . .Big. Fat. Caterpillar! (And we use our big deep voices!) And. . .getting the cute little colorful stuffed caterpillar with the book really makes the story come to life!
Pumpkin carving has been part of our harvest tradition for over 30 years! After the pumpkins are carved up. . .we have to do something with the seeds! We have been roasting pumpkin seeds since before my children were born. These make a yummy fall treat!
Papa likes to grow the fun little ornamental gourds – like the bottleneck ones and the tiny pumpkins (as you can see, I know ALL the technical names! Just check out the picture; it’s worth a thousand of my useless explanations. Ha ha!)
There are some amazing people who paint gourds into beautiful works of art. However, we just do it for fun and the let the Littles dabble with their art skills. If you would like to check out some fun things to do with the gourds, try ThriftyFun.com (for some fun ideas) and Popsugar.com (for these cool metallic decorations).
Filling Pumpkin Bags /Leaves
Okay, so this one is a bit devious as a way to get all our leaves raked up by grandkids, but hey. . .we grandparents need to be creative too, right? And the kids really do love it!
You can get these Pumpkin Leaf bags at so many places – local retailers (Walmart, Home Depot, party stores, etc.) or online at places like Amazon. This set of pumpkin bags at Amazon has 3 in the set, and they are my favorite! They do have other ones, so you can look around, but these guys just make me happy! Super cute!!
One Last Suggestion. . .
Create some yummy goodness from your fall harvest. Papa and I have put together some of our very favorite fall recipes that use things straight from our garden. We would like to share our very special recipes with you. Download them for free!
Head over here for Part 2 – More Lessons from the Garden
Cookies & Milk for Everyone!
P.S. Watch for MORE Life Lessons from the Garden in Part 2!