Getting kids’ hands in the dirt has health benefits and connects them to the Earth. A garden is an interactive playground that engages all senses and teaches lessons without being forced: Responsibility, cause and effect, curiosity, physical activity and a budding love of nature.
Hands-on involvement in basic gardening encourages self-confidence and gratitude for the people in this world that keep us fed. There is nothing more rewarding than the fruits of your own labor! Here are three great plants to get the kids started.
Nothing screams summer like biting right into a juicy, fresh strawberry. The only thing that could make it taste better is one grown in your own garden! Pick up a starter plant from a local nursery. In a raised bed that is easy to access, plant your strawberries. (Tip: It’s best to keep these in a raised bed so you get to taste the fruit and not some pesky rabbit.) Children will love watching the white flower grow to be a small green berry and finally the reward of a bright red one to munch on.
Did I hear mojitos? Mint is an invasive plant, so it must be kept in a container or raised bed, but this super grower will give you and your child plenty of fresh-smelling leaves for recipes and crafts all summer long! You can start from seed (indoors in early March!) or a starter plant later in the season. Crush some leaves and place them in a container as a smelling jar for young ones, or let the older kids make a hot peppermint tea and notice the relaxing benefits. You can’t go wrong with this plant.
This is another fragrant herb that is easy to grow and can be dried to enjoy year-round! Grab a starter plant from a nursery and stick it in some dirt. Let your children run their fingers gently over the leaves to release some of the scent. This is a great sensory activity that can be used for recipes, dried for the future or for a fun craft.
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This article was featured in Chicago Parent’s March/April 2021 magazine.