The other day I got an excellent question from someone on my AMA post:
"Do you involve your kids in your gardening as a means of instilling in them the value of organic gardening? What other benefits are there to teaching one's children how to grow an organic garden?"Ooohhhh, there are so many benefits!!! And the answer is ABSOLUTELY YES! Every morning that I am outside if the kids are not at school they are required to come downstairs with me. I don't always make them work in the garden, but I at least want them to see me watering the plants on a regular basis so it becomes ingrained in their minds and souls that gardening is something to be done daily.
There are many benefits to teaching your children how to grow an organic garden. Here are just a few:
#1: It teaches them a skill that will feed them for the rest of their lives
How does the old saying go?
"Catch a fish for a man and he can eat for a day, but teach him how to fish and he can eat for the rest of his life."Same principle here. You can simply do all the gardening yourself and provide food for your kids, but to incorporate your children in the growing and harvesting process so they can learn how to feed themselves for the rest of their lives is far more empowering and fulfilling both to you and your kids. Not only that, but as your children become more capable you will be less stressed because you will have a lot more help to get things done. #WinWin!
#2: It teaches them patience
Gardening takes a great deal of patience. Patience in setting up your garden. Patience in planting your seedlings and waiting (for what seems like forever) for them to spring up. Patience in watching them grow to maturity. Patience as you wait for them to produce their tasty fruit and/or flowers, some of which won't produce anything for many years. Patience with yourself as you lose plants over and over again (even the most skilled gardeners will lose plants).
You get the idea. Your children will eventually learn that everything takes time to grow and that it is worth it to wait (sometimes a long time) in the end, because the reward is so rich in flavor. This kind of schooling cannot be taught better by anything else except by nature. God's creation is the most forgiving teacher you can find. Use it!
#3: It teaches them how to work hard
I think we all know that Gardening is really hard work! Especially when you are just getting started setting all your beds up. When you include your children in that process you are teaching them how to work hard. They will probably give you a bad attitude at first and make it obvious they don't want to help, but if you put your foot down and be consistent in explaining to them that if they want to eat, they need to learn how to work, eventually they will stop complaining. They may actually find out they really enjoy the work, who knows?
Learning how to work hard will make them very valuable citizens of society when they get out in the world on their own. They will be disciplined enough to be able to show their future employers that they can rise above the rest and will probably outwork most of their peers without complaining. They will not only succeed at climbing the corporate ladder, if they so choose, but they will also be smart enough to think outside the box and hopefully become their own bosses.
But be sure that you are consistent with them in getting them involved daily. If you make them work some times and play other times, they may begin to think that they only have to work when they want or when it is convenient for them. That's definitely not what we want. Just remember: Work first, then play.
#4: It teaches them how to care for life
When children are able to see things grow and die, they become acutely aware of life. While animals are great to have and teach kids to take care of, you don't want to hand over a dog to your kid to take sole responsibility of, because the chances of your young children forgetting about them are high.
Give your kids a plant to care for however won't hurt as much if they let it die, but it will teach them the value of life. Especially if your kids are looking forward to the food the plant will provide in the end.
#5: It teaches Them Consistency
Gardening requires a lot of consistency, because if you do not consistently water your plants and feed them, they will either die, produce bad fruit, or won't produce any fruit. Consistency, IMHO, is the number one most difficult habit to teach oneself. I know because I am only now, at 36 yo, learning how to be consistent. I have found, however, that the people who were taught consistency by their parents come by it naturally, because they learned it for the most important years of their lives.
I have found that the easiest way to train my kids in consistency has been through the garden.They can see how it pays off when they see you fail to water on some days (which happens around here once in a while). They can see how the lack of consistency will make the plants suffer. The visual effect really makes a difference in their little minds.