By contributing writer Colleen
I don’t know about you, but I am ready for spring! This has been one of the longest, coldest winters I remember, and I’m tired of being cooped up inside.
And, even though there is still snow on the ground, I’m anxiously awaiting the time when I can get outside in the backyard and start planting seeds with the kids. If you’ve never gardened with your kids, I highly encourage it. Not only do I encourage you to have your children help you with your family garden — from seed to harvest — but I hope you give them their own play garden too.
Last year, on a whim, I took a look at the kids’ plastic log cabin playhouse and convinced my husband to break up the ground on one side of it, fence it in with cinder blocks, and turn it over to them.
It was one of the best parenting experiments I’ve done so far.
Faced with the open-ended possibilities of a patch of ground to call their own, the kids talked (or fought) together to come up with a plan for what they wanted to plant. They decided to plant pumpkins, squash, sweet peas, carrots, and watermelon.
See any problems with their plan yet? Several of the plants that they chose spread — widely.
I let them go with it, and handed over shovels and seed packets and let them plant the seeds however they wanted to.
They started out with a plan, and planted seeds in rows and then got tired of the organization, threw the rest of the seeds in the garden, forgot to label their rows, and moved on to ride their bikes.
Unfortunately, they’re lack of planning made for an out-of-control garden where plants overtook other plants, and squash and pumpkin plants grew outrageously big leaves that covered the roof of the playhouse. And, since so much energy went to the leaves, the entire garden yielded only three pumpkins at the end of it all.
So, why didn’t I correct them?
Why didn’t I organize their garden according to what the seed packets directed?
Because the product wasn’t the point.
We planted a family garden in our backyard together. The family garden’s purpose was to feed us and do things by the book. The kids’ garden was for play and learning.
The imaginative play that developed out of their simple garden was amazing. They played house. Their simple log cabin was a castle with magic beanstalks. It was a fortress on the edge of a jungle. They were poor farmers dependent on the crop outside their door for food. It was fabulous to watch, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with this summer.
Have you ever considered turning over a plot of land to your kids? Give it a try this summer!