By Lynda Fassa
There are many fun things to do in the backyard with the kids: picnicking, jumping through the sprinkler and playing catch-and-release firefly competitions, to name a few. But the most memorable -- and possibly the best brain-builder -- is gardening.
Scientists and pediatricians have learned that kids who garden do better in school. There's something magical about planting a seed, nurturing it and watching it grow. The biggest bonus comes when the flower blooms or the fruits (and veggies) of their labor end up on the kitchen table. For my family, the experience of planting one seed that turned into a huge pumpkin -- about 6 pounds! -- was a thrill.
Try these easy tips to give your kids a positive “growth” experience.
1. Find the right spot.
Choose a small, sunny area of your yard -- or consider using a window box or joining a community garden.
2. Pick your plants.
If you're new to this, you'll probably want to stay away from hard-to-care-for beauties, like roses. The biggest, easiest wow-factor plants are sunflowers, butterfly bushes and mint (which is delicious in herbal tea or salads).
3. Cultivate a stress-free green thumb.
Gardening with kids should be easy and enjoyable, with minimal planning the first season. If you're too late in the season to start from seeds, check out your local nursery and let the kids pick a couple of starter plants. Even the youngest children can turn a small plot of soil, dig a hole and replant. It's a joyous responsibility and a great lesson in stewardship for the kids to take turns pulling weeds and watering every day.
Working in the garden reminds adults and children how connected we all are. When the earthworms, the sun’s warming rays and generous summer rains work together, small and fragile plants can grow to become big, strong and vital -- just like your kids. Can you dig it?
Lynda Fassa is the founder of Green Babies, an organic-cotton baby clothing company, and the author of two books (Green Babies, Sage Moms and Green Kids, Sage Families). She is a frequent blogger for sites like Grist.org, ParentsConnect.com, Treehugger.com and PlanetGreen.com. Lynda has also appeared in People, The New York Times, Parents and Parenting, and on the Today show, Planet Green, Fox News Happy Hour, CBS Sunday Morning, ABC News and more.
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