Groff's Plant Farm Images

Getting Kids Outside

Published: Wed May 22nd 2013

Many garden writers and parents lament the fact that kids today don’t play outside anymore, let alone show an interest in gardening. They are more interested in their ipods, and Xboxes, than in pea pods or flower boxes. They are environmentally aware- my son harps on me about recycling, and they do get exposed to plants a bit at school. Who hasn’t received a marigold or sunflower seedling for Mother’s Day from a school-aged son or daughter? They seem primed- but how do you translate that to actually going outside, exploring the natural world and learning about plants?

One way is to slow down. Many parents today don’t have time to watch a praying mantis nest open, and hundreds of babies come pouring out. Or to watch a pair of robins painstakingly build a nest. I know I feel the press of work, ferrying kids to their activities and keeping up with housework to spend as much time just sitting outside and watching what is going on around me.

My son walks from the bus stop down our lane every afternoon. It is also the farm driveway. Yesterday a customer told me he observed Liam, age 7, bending over and blowing a dandelion. Last week, Liam described to me in great detail of the anthill he watched. The walk up the lane takes me about 5 min. Liam usually does it in 20 or 30- but I’m not complaining a bit. It is one of his few unscheduled times of day.

Another way is to let kids take the lead. What do lemon verbena, New Guinea impatiens and yellow and purple Johnny-jump-ups have in common? Obstensively,nothing, but they are my daughter’s three favorite flowers. Lemon verbena because it smells so good, New Guinea impatiens because the flowers feel like satin hair ribbons, and Johnny-jump-ups because they are “cheerful”. I would never put this odd combination together, but that is what is going in one of my pots this summer. I applaud the parents that come to the greenhouse, and let their children pick out some favorites to plant themselves regardless of color.

Help them to explore. Kids like to watch insects, plant some larval and nectar flowers to attract butterflies and watch a monarch butterfly complete its lifecycle this summer. Plant a pizza garden- tomatoes, pepper and basil, and let them help you harvest and cook.

There are some great resources to help you get started. The website kidsgardening.org has some wonderful activities and links to other resources. The Master Gardener s of Chester County have started a Junior Master Gardener program based from the Oxford Library to get kids learning about gardening. Turn off the TV, put down the ipad and take a walk. Theodore Parker Park on Wesley Road is a great place to take your shoes off and stomp in the creek.

School is almost out. Encourage your kids to go outside this summer. You too.