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Getting kids into gardening fun

This past week, I visited my son's pre-K class to help the children plant seeds. I was impressed with their knowledge the seeds needed water to wake up! It was great seeing the enthusiasm this group of students had for gardening.

Gardening to some may seem like a chore or to others a wonderful way to reduce stress. For children, it is an important learning tool. Studies have shown gardening increases a person's environmental knowledge and sense of community. Research has also shown children who garden perform better on science and math achievement tests, have increased nutritional knowledge, and also gain greater social inclusion by gender, race and ability.

If we are not careful, gardening can become a burden to a child who is ordered out to weed and water. But, with a small amount of thought, we can instill a lifetime passion. I let my kids help make decisions on what plants to put into the garden. As a result, we will always have carrots, lettuce, beans, and peas in the veggie patch. They help choose flowers for some of our containers. Sure, the flowers aren't the ones I would pick, but my kids are much more excited about watering their flowers throughout the summer than helping me water my flowers.

During the growing season, I ask them to help me plant, weed, water and harvest, but only as much as they desire to do so. If my 5-year-old son would rather squish mud through his toes after planting two bean seeds, so be it. If I made him plant the entire row, he won't have a pleasant memory of gardening in years to come.

While I am gardening, I also talk to my kids. We talk about the insects we see, the feel of the soil, and the plants. Through this process, I am also continually increasing my garden knowledge. They are always bound to ask questions that I don't know the answer to. We always look up those questions on the computer or in a book when we are finished.

In addition, there are a plethora of games you can play with your children, recipes you can cook after harvesting veggies from the garden, and books you can read with your children on gardening. I always find including children in gardening is a great way to get me excited about the garden!

Anne Lenox Barlow is a professional horticulturist who enjoys gardening with her family in Plattsburgh. She also chronicles her gardening experiences at her blog www.northcountrygarden.wordpress. com. She can be reached at a.lenox.barlow@gmail. com

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