When my oldest daughter was about two and a half, we were at a craft fair where the local food bank was handing out small vegetable plants to kids. She took her little broccoli home, planted it, and grew a beautiful plant that she happily ate!
2-year-old Anna (who is now 5) in her garden
This started a love of gardening that we have enjoyed as a family ever since. We are partial to vegetable gardening since you get to eat your results, and it saves a lot of money at the grocery store! You don't need a large yard to garden - I've grown veggies indoors in window sills and on small patios in containers. You just have to make sure to water those container gardens OFTEN. Also, if your soil isn't naturally rich, I recommend placing a small border around your garden with wood or bricks and mixing in some fertilzed soil or mulch. I have done this in my garden, as I live in a desert where gardening can be tricky at times.
Although they haven't loved all of the vegetables we've grown (they love to grow/pick radishes but HATE to eat them...luckily I love radishes), my kids are much more likely to try something new that came out of our garden than a new veggie from the grocery store.
It is also their job to keep the garden watered (takes some daily reminding from me) - which they love doing.
After a while, we learned the benefits of composting and started a compost bin in the backyard. This has been a great way to teach them about the concepts of waste, trash, decomposition, and proper plant nutrition.
|Our compost bin and wasp trap (used with apple cider vinegar to keep away fruit flies in the summer)|
My kids also think it's really fun to take the veggie scraps out to the compost bin for me. You can compost obvious things like fruit/vegetable waste, grass clippings, and weeds - but ALSO shredded newspapers, corrugated cardboard, eggshells, coffee/filters, teabags, and fiberboard eggshell cartons/takeout containers (don't put the styrofoam ones in). Steer clear of things like dairy, oils, and meat (that gets SMELLY and will attract unwanted visitors). I keep a bowl by my kitchen sink and drop veggie/fruit waste (peels, cores, etc) into it as I'm cooking and let the kids take it out and dump it in the bin after I'm done. You can also get little mini-compost holders for your kitchen which come with lids that you can store waste in for a few days, but to be honest the bowl works just fine for me. I bought one of those countertop waste storers and NEVER use it.
During the warmer months, my fruit remains attract fruit flies. I placed an inexpensive glass wasp trap next to it with apple cider vinegar inside - took care of the problem within a few days (see the photo of the compost bin above). The only way in/out of the wasp traps is through the base - they fly in, get a little tipsy on the vinegar, and can't find their way out.
After a few months - depending on where you live and what you have in your bin, the bottom layer will be ready for use and you can add it to your garden by sprinkling it directly onto the soil or making compost "tea". Here's some additional information on composting and the different ways to make and use it.
|Recently-added remains to our family compost bin.|