I'm a freelance writer based in Perth, Western Australia, who enjoys writing about the things I love: travel, nature-based activities, the arts, spirituality and creative, fun activities for children.
Published September 28th 2012
Encourage your kids to get their hands dirty next weekend
As our world gets busier and more complex, it's often the simple pleasures in life such as a peaceful walk amongst nature or growing our own food which are first sacrificed. Unfortunately, it's not only adults, but also children, who miss out on many of these humble yet joyful experiences which once would have been part of daily life.
Gardening is a simple, practical skill which was once essential for survival in Australia, as it still is for much of the world's population. However, in today's busy, fast-food environment, many children have never had the experience of getting their hands into the soil, and growing the foodstuffs which will eventually end up on their dinner-table.
A great way to combat this sense of disconnection is to create a special garden for your children where they can get their hands dirty and grow their favourite vegies or flowers. Although this might seem like a lot of hard work, it's actually not so difficult to do. If you're unsure where to begin, perhaps see if you can find somewhere in your local area, such as an environment centre, which holds children's gardening classes or activities. Another way to get kids into the mood for gardening is to buy special child-sized gardening implements. Gardening kits for kids are available at a very reasonable price from many gardening centres, toy stores and even hardware outlets.
Be sure to choose plants which are very easy to grow and prolific. Pumpkins, broad beans, silverbeet, chokos, zucchinis and button squash are all very easy for beginners to grow. Since most kids are quite impatient, plants which grow quickly, such as oriental vegetables and radishes, are also good choices.
For those who don't have much space in their gardens, or who feel a bit overwhelmed by tackling a larger garden project, why not try a small planting box to begin with, or grow your vegies in large flower pots. Silverbeet, lettuce, basil and cherry tomatoes are good for this kind of growing, and children will love the small gardens which they create in pots and tubs.
For mums and dads who are experienced gardeners, and who can therefore offer their children plenty of good advice, what are known as heirloom vegetables may also be good choices. Have you ever tasted purple tomatoes? What about black capsicum or yellow carrots? Heirloom vegetables are old, non-hybrid varieties which have been selected and saved for generations, often going back hundreds of years. These are varieties which we generally don't see on our supermarket shelves yet they offer some of the best tasting and prolific crops available. Kids will love their unusual shapes and colours, and by growing them and saving their seeds for future crops, can contribute towards keeping these old-fashioned vegetable varieties alive.
To find out more about growing heirloom vegetables, check out the Diggers Seeds website. If you see anything on their catalogue which really grabs you, it's possible to order online. They even have a special seed kit for children. Otherwise, for those living close to Melbourne, a visit to their two garden centres, at historic Heronswood and St Erth, would be an interesting experience for the whole family. To find out more about these properties and heirloom vegetables, go to the Diggers Club website.
As far as possible, try to keep your garden organic or at the very least, pesticide free: for the planet's sake as well as your children's. These days, organic garden supplies are widely available at environment centres as well as many garden suppliers. In Australia, many health food and organic shops stock a selection of organically sourced seeds, many of which are also heirloom varieties. Otherwise most organic seed suppliers offer online ordering. Popular brands include Eden, Green Patch and Green Harvest.
In conclusion, gardening is a fun activity which can be enjoyed with kids of all ages. It's also a way that we can teach our children to become more environmentally conscious, as they learn to connect that what we eat and how it's grown directly impacts our health, wellbeing and the world we live in. So next weekend or during the school holidays, get into the great outdoors and start digging. It's healthy, it's fun and it's a great way to train your kids to care more about the beautiful planet on which we live.