I approach gardening with kids much like I approach anything with kids: with joy, patience and as much non-attachment to the outcome as I can muster. This way when it’s fun it fun and when it’s done it’s done.
Because I garden for a living, I have had to figure out ways not only to share my great love of the earth with my son but also to engage him while still getting stuff done.
Not only is fresh air and sunshine good for you and your child postpartum, but getting babies used to where you plan to spend a lot of time with them is helpful. As they arrive on this earth, provide them with safe comfortable ways to feel like they belong on this good green earth.
When my son was very young I put him in a little basket in the green house.
As he got older he spent lots of time right in the garden patch.
I made sure he was well protected when the sun was bright. He slept really well outside.
We provided safe spaces by adding little edges, walls and fences to help define the boundaries of plants and people
We gave him something to pull himself up on and lots of safe grazing foods within reach.
Glorious Rain. So much of the world is fascinating and marvelous when you are brand new.
The garden is the greatest place to experience the feel and the texture of life and to open our senses to the miracles of sensory awareness.
I let my son pluck a flower or two or eat some dirt: the casualties are most likely worth it.
I put recycled tiles in the garden paths as stepping-stones and it is more entertaining for my son to jump from one to another than to trample the plants, so we are both happy with that!
When kids get even older, say 2, it is important to set them up with projects you can let them work on without having to keep too close an eye.
My husband somehow has two of every thing and can set our son up to work right by his side. He also seems to have varying sizes of things so that our son has a real hammer, but one that fits in his hands and isn’t a danger.
No matter how hard you try to prepare, measure and accommodate, when a child is done, he is done!
Being in the garden with my son does involve some boundaries and guidance, but mostly it is a time for reverence and connection.
And now look at him! My little garden guy. Marveling at the wonders all around him, sharing the miracles of life with those close to him and working, always working.
“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” ― RachelCarson.
From early experiences Erin O’Neill learned that feeding your family and teaching your children are most worthy and sustainable goals. Erin has lived on a small plot in Northern New Mexico, that she and her family help nurture and bloom, for 13 years. She has focused her career on educational gardens at the Santa Fe Children’s Museum, Monte Del Sol Charter School and now at the Santa Fe Community College. Her love of gardening is her most cherished gift and she always delights in sharing it. Enjoy more of Erin’s writing and photography at Seeds & Stones.