Parents, you know that summer vacation is upon us, and that means your kids will be antsy to tackle new activities. So there’s no better time to teach them a thing or two about gardening.
“Many of us turned to creating a garden as one of our quarantine hobbies in 2020,” says Bailey Carson, home expert at Angi, the home improvement recommendation site. “It’s a great time to include your kids in your garden’s revival and maintenance.”
Teaching your kids about lawn and yard maintenance can occupy hours and instill in them a sense of responsibility and accomplishment. Plus, it’s an activity the whole family can partake in.
Of course, we’re not suggesting you simply set the children loose to trample on and bust up your garden. Try out the following age-appropriate yard maintenance activities together at first, and see if your kids take a liking to them. Best-case scenario? They’ll continue to help you tidy up outside!
Elementary school-age children
Children of this age require smaller jobs they can do with an adult. But experts say, let them have a chance to take the lead and feel a part of the task.
“This is an opportunity for you to teach them the very basics of gardening while also having fun,” says Carson. “Try to turn yard cleanup and maintenance tasks into fun games like how many sticks can you pick up in a minute.”
Carson says other ideas for gardening tasks include watering plants, repotting plants, digging holes with plastic shovels, helping plant a window garden, and picking outdoor flowers and turning them into indoor flower arrangements.
“Even at a young age, getting kids involved in the garden and allowing them to be part of the process from start to finish promotes creativity and a positive connection to nature,” says Dave Thompson of Seeds of Change, an organic seed and food company.
Thompson says young helpers can also assist with picking out different vegetable, herb, or flower seed varieties for the garden.
“Allowing them to pick out their favorite produce and watching the plants grow will make them more excited to eat the vegetables when it’s time to harvest,” he says.
Middle school-age children
Children in middle school can often handle more independent tasks, including those that require low-risk tools like rakes and pruning shears to help bag leaves or prune plants.
Thompson says to teach kids at this age about the different gardening tools, and encourage them to take responsibility for a specific section or area of the garden.
“You can also teach middle school-age children about the importance of pollinators, and even plant a butterfly garden to attract beautiful and helpful pollinators to your backyard,” says Thompson.
“At this age, you can give kids an incentive to help you out by giving them an allowance to do yard chores,” says Ashley Renne Nsonwu, host of “Ashley Renne” on the Smart Healthy Green Living streaming service.
Composting is one way to make a nutrient-rich solution that can be used on your lawn, and it’s also a great eco-conscious project to involve middle school-age children.
“Teach your kids how to effectively use their food scraps for something useful for your yard. You can buy or build a compost bin together and show them how to layer kitchen scraps and green plant matter into the bin,” says Nsonwu. Then task your kid to regularly maintain the layers until the pile degrades into finished compost for your grass.
High school-age children
High schoolers can handle even more responsibility and can be taught how to properly use a lawn mower, weed trimmer, or hedge shears.
“Show them how the tools work and keep an eye on them the first few times, until you’re all comfortable with them doing the job on their own,” says Carson. “Teenagers can also take on some gardening jobs that require a little heavy lifting.”
High school-age kids can also handle chores that require attention to detail, such as edging the lawn.
Thompson says kids this age can take on even more ownership in the upkeep of a backyard garden. He recommends getting them involved with building a raised garden bed. And if your high schoolers enjoy cooking, encourage them to plan out an area of the garden that has their favorite herbs and vegetables that they can tend to and then use in the kitchen.
“Teaching them to grow their own food supply not only fosters a connection to nature but also encourages them to have an appreciation for their favorite healthy foods,” says Thompson.