5 Ways to Create a Kid-Friendly Garden
In a culture of video games, Pokemon Go, and fast foods – we desperately need to get kids and teenagers back outside. Getting your children in the garden is easy, as long as you recognize they are not going to “enjoy” merely pulling the weeds or dead-heading flowers. However, there are some really creative ways to create kid-friendly garden that will encourage activity, creativity, and connections with nature.
As a teacher at The Daniel Academy, a Pre-K through 12th grade private school in south Kansas City, I work with students and families on a daily basis. Getting these kids outside to explore and imagine is truly one of my passions.
Before I share any of the tools and tips, it’s important to stress here that the overarching idea is that YOU GO OUTSIDE WITH THEM. No toy, decoration, or tool is a replacement for spending actual time with you kids. There is not a replacement for laughing with them, getting dirt under your nails together, and talking with them. Regardless of age, quality time is the goal and the garden is just a place to make that happen.
That being said…Here are a few tips that are easy to integrate in your urban or suburban backyard.
1 – Literature directional signs from their favorite books
It isn’t hard to get kids to enjoy reading, as long as you make it fun. Making these directional signs are a great way to keep the family busy on rainy days or weekends. We painted these with our students this summer using acrylic paint and then added a clear polyurethane varnish to seal them. You can hang them on posts, trees, or on the side of your shed. Now, of course, you can always do signs from movies or TV shows, but I think we can agree that encouraging reading is a better practice. Check out mine here (IMG_7679… IMG_7680…)
2 – Hobbit / fairy furniture to spark imagination
The boys generally aren’t going to be real impressed with a fairy garden, but give them a place to rock their action figures and they are all set. Use sticks to create fences or have the kids help you make your own furniture from popsicle sticks or wire. I have a few of these around the school and one in my backyard, which the neighborhood kids helped me design.
3 – Involve animals
Whether you create a place for your dogs or get a few backyard chickens, there is always room for animals. Kids love working with animals, especially when it’s outside. In our gardening class at the school, my students will argue about which group gets to feed and play with the chickens. They would rather be in the group with the birds than eating and picking berries or tomatoes; when kids turn down food – you know it’s a big deal. We have purposely selected a lot of heritage chicken breeds that have “cool hair” or have personalities that are more social. The rock star rooster in the picture is Cogswell, he’s a favorite of our students and loves all the attention he can get. The kindergarten classes even wave to him on their way past multiple times a day!
4 – Birdhouses, feeders, and watering stations
Attracting wildlife to your property or backyard engages the kiddos whether they are inside or out. In the middle of winter, it gives that extra bit of interest looking out the window. I still remember being a kid at my parents house in Millington, Michigan and watching the birds out the window. My mom always did well at keeping the bird feeders full, so there was never a dull moment out the front living room window. It was a collection of simple acts (mostly from my parents), like filling the bird feeders, that helped cultivate a love of nature that has lasted into my adult years.
5 – Interactive fitness areas
Now it gets fun! Start thinking beyond a basketball hoop or volleyball net, though those are a great start. This summer at our school, we added pull-up bars for the gymnasts and a cool tire-run section using old tires from the side of the road. You can hit two birds with one stone and not only help get kids moving, but also give them a lesson in repurposing and recycling as well. With Pinterest out there, we have no excuse for up-cycling with our kids and finding creative ways to get them moving.
If you have enjoyed one of these tips, please share this with some friends on your favorite social media network. Enjoy your afternoon – and GO OUTSIDE and take a few kids with you.