Growing up, dad had a vegetable garden out in our front field in the middle of an old riding ring. To get there, we'd have to wade through weeds, keep our eyes open for snakes, and battle the blaring sun. I never had much interest in venturing out there unless it was a picking day and we were instructed to bring in the beans and clip okra.
As I've started my own gardens over the past few years, one of my goals has been to involve my kids in the various stages. Initially, I had a very simple view of letting my oldest have his own small box once he hit four, but I've seen that kids don't like to be boxed in - just like some plants! Daniel is now four, and that idea has totally been canned. The entire garden is designed to bring the magic, to draw them in and help them explore.
Here's several components that help me bring the magic:
- Winding pathways make every trek through the garden feel like an adventure, especially in the summer when the plants are tall and give a jungle feel to the place.
- Kid-size respites like benches and little nooks give them a space to sit and contemplate life.
- Tunnels and teepees provide shade and exploration. Kids love having secret forts and hiding places. All it takes are some trellises, bamboo poles or wire-remesh and some vining plants!
- Varying textures create a stimulating environment where they can push trucks and learn to dig. In the middle of our butterfly garden, there is what we call the "rock quarry" where we toss all the rocks we find. They love to load up the dump trucks with them.
- Something to climb on is essential for helping them get a change in view. My boys love climbing a five foot wood ladder and peek through the tall corn. They also climb the fence to look out on the back yard and watch birds.
- Weird plants, plants with vivid colors, prickly plants, and plants that grow super tall create new places to wade into and explore.
- Naming our garden friends like the writing spiders has also helped them to appreciate the diversity of life and ease their fears of the unknown.