Garden Dos and Don’ts For The Nervous Parent

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It’s common knowledge that the more that kids are outside, the happier they are. It boosts health, their immune system and their sense of curiosity and wonder. It’s just a given: kids should be outdoors.

The world is a dangerous place, or at least it feels that way. The days of 1970s latch-key kids are long gone.  That generation of parents has been replaced by a generation who see danger rather than a safe neighborhood.  An enclosed garden can help ease a parent’s fear of allowing their kids to wander around the neighborhood.  Children can still play outdoors, and you can protect their environment.

If you’ve got an area of your garden is not being used and you have no idea what to do with it, it can be tempting just to throw things at it and see what sticks. Here’s a list of dos and don’ts to help you create a great outdoor space:

DO: Make It Secure

A privacy fence is invaluable tool in helping to keep your brood from prying eyes.  It’s also great for keeping them inside the perimeter of the property where you can keep an eye on them, and know their location at all times.  If you have a part of your garden that is overlooked, consider a gazebo or similar, which has the double impact of protection from the sun.

 

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DON’T: Install A Pond

Image From: WikiMedia Commons

There’re a couple of caveats to this one.  Parents must teach children to respect the water.  That’s a tricky task with youngsters who want to catch or watch fish and dragonflies.  Keep temptation away until they fully understand the dangers of drowning.  If you can’t resist a pond, ensure it has sloping sides so any child (or creature) falling in can clamber out.

DO: Focus On Soft Landings

Children are going to stumble in the play area or fall off the swing set.  It’s almost inevitable. You need to ensure the ground that they’re landing on is friendly, no matter what the weather. Grass and mud dry out in summer heat and can be as hard as concrete. Sand is a popular choice, as long as it’s kid-friendly.  You can also use wood chips or mulch in your play area.  Unfortunately, they’re not as forgiving, but they’re better than bare earth.

DON’T: Allow Tree Climbing

I know, I know – it’s a childhood dream! Every kid wants to climb trees!  Ensure the tree is strong enough to hold your child’s weigh. Tree branches can be deceiving.  Being large doesn’t make them strong.  Children moving along them can cause them to break with the additional weigh.  Building a tree house is a viable solution. If not, call in a tree expert to assess the tree for weakness and have weak limbs removed.

DO: Give Yourself A Vantage Point

Try and organize your garden in such a way that you can see it all from one spot.  Hiding places, such as behind sheds, can bring extra dangers.  Block off those areas if possible.  Remove any trees if you must to ensure you can see the entire garden area with a quick glance.

 

 

Summer Activities: Gardening With Your Child

 

gardening with your child

 

My grandfather had a garden when I was growing up, and I remember how different the vegetables taste from the store brought veggies today.  With that in mind, I planted a vegetable garden.  My father was an avid flower gardener, so it’s in my blood.

I decided to involve my grandson when he was little.  He lives near the beach, so backyard gardening isn’t a common theme in that area. When he visits in the summer he helps me with my garden.  He enjoys playing in the dirt and watering my plants.

Most importantly, he is learning about growing vegetables and flowers.  It’s a great way to get him outside and moving.  He loves it so much when he hears the back door open, he is on my heels.  In the photo above, he’s picking peppers.  Hot peppers are big in my family, we love them on everything.  Xavier loves hot peppers on his nachos, he’s a kid after his grandmother’s heart.  I pickle hot peppers, so we have a fresh supply all year and freeze Belle peppers for cooking.

gardening with children


Next, he’s learning the importance of watering the plants, weeding and waiting to reap the benefit.  How do you like his garden boots?  They’re Disney cars.  He loves splashing in the water after he makes puddles in the yard.  I can’t say that he’s learned to love everything he’s nurturing in the vegetable garden, but he’s having fun helping everything grow.

My grandchildren do love carrots, corn, cucumbers and tomatoes.  I use them in pasta salads, and the tomatoes for sauce for spaghetti and pizza which they both love.  I also can tomatoes for chili and soup in the winter.  Yum!

gardening with children

 

I’m a petunia lover too, so I make sure they’re the star on my deck in the summer.  Xavier was 2 when I started involving him in my gardening.  I thought I would share this picture of him sucking his binky and watering my plants.  It’s one of my favorite pictures of him.  I purchased a little watering can, rake and shovel for him too.  He remembers watering the plants, and now wants to water them each summer.  My granddaughter is old now, hopefully she will take an interest as well.

 

gardenng with children

 

Gardening doesn’t have to be expensive.  I start most of my vegetables and flowers from seed that I save.  I also purchase plants off the clearance rack at Walmart or Lowes.  The planter above is filled with Walmart clearance items. I purchased the planter from the Dollar Store.

Most importantly, if you don’t have a yard use your balcony or patio to grow a few plants.  Get your child involved. Better yet, let them plant a few flowers or vegetables of their own.  It teaches them responsibility and also gets them involved in nature. Try a perennial, they come back each year.

Next, when you expose children to different experiences, they will be open to different cultures, music, foods and other experiences as an adults.  Their formative years are in our hands.  They may not model everything that we do in their adult years, but they will have the memories and experience.  Last, you can’t place a price tag on that.