Gardening with Kids

How do you get children to help in the garden? Suggestions from MOTHER's readers.

| July/August 1989

"Last summer I nursed, enjoyed and harvested from my best garden ever, but I did have one nagging failure—my kids. How do you get children really interested in gardening? How do you get them to help when they can see it involves real work? Would anyone be willing to pass on some tried-and-true advice? I could use it." 

After Ruth Newsome's plea in our "Letters," we received enough replies to convince us that most people who love raising both plants and children face the problem of bringing the two together. So, for Ruth and all the rest of us, we're sharing some of the responses here—along with advice from a few expert gardeners we know.

Just as we must teach our children that, for most of us, earn comes before spend, so must we also teach them that grow comes before eat. My husband and I told our kids, "This is it! Each one of us will grow his or her own supply of food for the next year, according to the person's age and abilities." So whoever was interested in eating graduated automatically from helper to grower.

This probably seems pretty harsh to you, Ms. Newsome, but I believe that this one hard fact of life, presented honestly and forthrightly, was—next to spiritual matters—the most rewarding and important thing that we tried to teach our young people.

And we kept a sense that, yes, this is hard work, but let's have some fun anyway. A few thrown dirt clods and other foolishness were perfectly acceptable. We still got the rows weeded.

I say, catch the kids through their stomachs.

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