By Rachel Ballin
This past weekend, we began weeding and planting our two garden boxes. As I dug through the dirt pulling out weeds with our son, we found handfuls of worms and other creepy crawly bugs. It was a science lesson within itself.
While we were digging, I began thinking about how grateful I am that my children are able to experience nature at our home like they do. I definitely have country children. They would much rather be outside than in. They love to explore, easily find a new adventure and of course, get dirty. I never imagined when we moved into our house it would turn into what it has.
My sister’s boys from Maryland lovingly call our house “The Farm.” Now, I don’t have any cows, so farm might be a bit of a stretch. However, I do have a kennel full of dogs, a flock of laying hens with a rooster, garden boxes and my son’s pride and joy, a Farmall H. All of this sits on 12 acres with two ponds and a loved filled country home. Even though my to do list is quite long everyday between the kids, animals and domestics, I try every year to give our kids the gift of a garden. It’s a way for our family to take on a project together and for our kids to see, experience and embrace the living world around them.
To start your summer off with a lesson in nature, for your children, I suggest trying to grow something from a seed. Anything really will do, but green beans and tomatoes tend to be heartier plants, if this is your first time giving vegetable growing a try. Now I know I have the space to go big with our planting, my back hill is even going to feature a row of corn and pumpkins this year. However, even a pot on your window sill will grow a few delicious cherry tomatoes or green beans. I promise your little one will be filled with excitement and wonder as they watch their plants grow.
If your child is older, take the project a step further and have them care for what they are growing by watering and weeding, if needed. This will make it a little lesson in responsibility too. If you want to make this a truly scientific educational endeavor, you can staple a few pieces of paper together and have them draw what they see every few days. You could even bust out a ruler and measure the plants growth on a chart. By the time your plants are grown and you are able to sample your bounty, the little set-up for the project will be well worth it. Plus you have also just shown your child where their food comes from and they will be filled with pride knowing they grew it themselves. I can still remember growing a single green bean, when I was in grade school and thinking this was the greatest thing ever. The memories you make hands on with your children are the memories they will keep. So get out into nature and get dirty with them, explore the dirt and see what creepy crawlies you can find together.
If you live in the city and want to take this experience with growing a little further, consider visiting a local farm. Our county holds several family-run working farms. Consider reaching out to a local farmer and seeing about arranging a visit with your children. If you don’t personally know a farmer, reach out to friends or visit the weekly farmers’ market for potential farms. Once you get the conversation started, I’m sure you will be pleasantly surprised with the response you receive. I’ve taken our children to local farms several times. It’s an outing that never seems to get old and they always learn something new. There’s just something about visiting a working farm and seeing all the animals and operations. Your children will likely be filled with questions and curiosity the first time they visit. Most farmers, I know, are passionate about what they do and love to share their knowledge with others, especially children. By extending your experience beyond your house to the farm, you are again instilling the importance of embracing nature and showing the true value of what it has to offer us. These are lessons your children will remember and they will carry over into other areas of their lives later on.
In our technology filled world of 2014, start this summer by giving your children the gift of a garden and a family experience in nature. I’m proud of the fact that my children would rather be outside sun up to sun down, instead of indoors watching television. It takes me back to my childhood, when things were a little less technical and more about simple love-filled living and making family memories that really last.
I’ve really loved hearing from you, the readers, with your comments, questions and what you want to read about next. I’ve been listening, interacting and writing. Keep checking back on Fridays and look for stories from your suggestions about sibling rivalry, healthy family living and what to expect when your child is ready to start school, plus more! Please keep the feedback coming e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you!