There’s never a dull moment when kids are around. With active imaginations they can make up a game wherever they happen to be. Two little girls, Adelyn and Scarlett come to my house to visit me and my dog, Sherman. We use scented markers to draw what’s outside the window, make jewelry from construction paper, create art projects from styrofoam and colored popsicle sticks, carve pumpkins in the fall and explore the forest. There are always hummingbirds to watch, songbirds to identify and flowers to smell.
Last summer I gave each girl a new nature photo album filled with pictures of plants, frogs, birds and butterflies as well as family taken around my house. Adelyn was three she got her first nature book and being that she’s five now she needed an update. This was Scarlett’s first book. Scarlett is nearly three. Now that they have a brand new little sister we’ll make another for Lorelei when she gets older. The book is one of those inexpensive four by six inch photo albums with sleeves for photos. Maybe the chipmunks will pose for a photo. There are quite a few in my garden. t’s fun to watch the girls run around and identify birds and flowers from the pictures in their book.
Later this spring the black-headed grosbeaks will return but for now Adelyn and her little sister Scarlett can find juncos, chickadees, purple and gold finches and nuthatches in their nature books. The flowers are the easiest to find as they don’t fly away and later the blue hydrangeas will be blooming.
In October we carved pumpkins out on the patio. The girls drew on them with markers and their Uncle Matt and their father Matt did the carving. Lots of stories were shared and pictures drawn later inside at my drafting table. Little Scarlett goes right to the harmonica to entertain everyone. She’s getting better each time but was pretty good even the first time she picked it up.
A few months ago Adelyn, Sherman and I went to a nursery to look at all the plants. We had a great time smelling all the flowers and I pointed out the plants with scented foliage too. The nursery cat followed us down every aisle teasing the dog. Sherman has a cat at home so he’s pretty harmless. I had to laugh when Adelyn told me later over lunch that she thought the nursery would be boring but it was anything but.
Although I don’t have full sun we are going to try our hand at growing carrots this spring in the purple pot I gave her for Christmas. That trowel will be super helpful, too. I think both of the girls would like to harvest some of those Rainbow Carrots I see in Renee’s Garden collection. The French Baby Carrots might be a big hit also.
Both girls love lady bugs. Make your garden a more inviting place for these beneficial insects by planting lots of flowers and herbs to attract them. Lady bugs will patrol your plants looking for tiny insects and their eggs.
Flowers with umbrella shaped clusters of small flowers such as cosmos, zinnia, black-eyed Susan and yarrow are favorites of butterflies.
Edible flowers are fun for kids to grow, too. Some common ones to try are tuberous begonia petals that taste like lemon. Calendulas are spicy as are carnations and marigolds. Dianthus are clove-flavored, nasturtiums give a hint of horseradish and violas, pansies, hollyhock, squash blossoms and Johnny-jump-ups taste like mild lettuce. You can also freeze flowers like violas, fuchsias, geranium, stock and thyme in ice cubes.
Pet-able plants are a sure hit with kids. Usually we tell them, “Don’t touch”, so to actually have someone encourage this is a rare treat. If your own garden doesn’t have plants that look and feel so soft that you can’t resist petting them, consider adding lamb’s ears, artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ or fountain grass.
In a garden, children can breathe fresh air, discover bugs and watch things grow. And, of course, a garden offers kids and everyone else fresh, tasty homegrown food. What better place for kids to play than in a place where they can use their hands and connect with the earth? Where else can they make a plan for a plot of land and learn the lessons of hope and wonder, suspense and patience and even success and failure? In a garden you can have conversations about life and even death in a way that doesn’t seem so sad.
To share one’s excitement and knowledge of the outdoor world with a child is fun and rewarding. The wonder on a young person’s face as they discover a swallowtail butterfly, a flower just starting to open or a bird feeding in the garden is priceless. And be sure to leave some time after a busy day out in the garden for kids to draw what they’ve enjoyed outside. I have my friend Adelyn’s drawings on my wall so we both remember the fun we have in the garden.