Habitot Children's Museum

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Habitot Children's Museum

Habitot Children's Museum
2065 Kittredge Street
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 647-1111

Parenting Q&A

Parenting Question of the Month What better place to stimulate babies’ and toddlers’ senses and cultivate their growing minds than in the garden?


Parenting Q&AThere are few things children enjoy more than digging in the dirt and playing with water. And what better place to stimulate babies’ and toddlers’ senses and cultivate their growing minds than in the garden? Children are fascinated by watching bees and butterflies, looking for worms and bugs, and finding spider webs misted with dew. They love to water the garden and anything else in the near vicinity. They also enjoy planting seeds, watching them grow and harvesting what they have grown. By cultivating their curiosity about these things, you can help them to develop an appreciation for nature, plants, flowers, animals and the earth.

Along with the fun of getting dirty, gardening helps children learn valuable lessons about patience as they wait for vegetables to grow, responsibility as they see how necessary their care is to garden plants, and even loss when plants and flowers die at the end of a season. Gardening also gives children a sense of accomplishment when plants bear fruit or can be harvested as vegetables, with the added nutritional bonus of getting to eat the things they have grown. Most importantly, gardening is a great way to spend time together as a family.

Here are some tips on helping your child and your garden flourish:

  • Set your child up for success and keep her interest by planting fast growing plants. Herbs are a great choice to begin with as are strawberries, raspberries, cherry tomatoes and potatoes. Place a yardstick or tomato cage next to a fast growing plant so your child can physically see a plant’s growth.

  • Give your child his own tools to use in the garden. Avoid cheap tools thatbreak easily or may not work correctly. You can also be creative with tools by using a wooden salad fork for a rake or a large spoon as a shovel.

  • Become a scientist! Exercise your curiosity and engage your child’s. Try a few experiments in the garden. If your child asks, “What if we plant the seed really deep?” Instead of saying it won’t work, say, “Let’s be scientists and find out what happens.”

  • Incorporate arts and crafts. Gardening activities do not have to be limited to growing and caring for plants. Raking fallen leaves into piles can be great fun for a child, especially when followed by jumping in them. Children also enjoy making decorations, like scarecrows, for their gardens or making art projects using leaves or flowers they have grown.

  • Be aware of your own feelings towards dirt and bugs and try not to pass on negative attitudes to your child. You can pretend to be interested but it’s better if you can get excited about learning something new alongside your child. Remember that getting dirty is an integral part of gardening and discovering. Dirty hands and clothes can be washed once the gardening is done so give your child permission to explore and really ‘dig in.’

  • Keep your garden safe. Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of commercial pesticides, including some “organic” preparations, so keep them out of reach. Start early to teach young children never to put any plant part in their mouth unless you have said it's OK. Keep garden buckets and watering cans empty when not being used to prevent accidents and possible drowning.

More than just plants grow when you help a child tend a garden. Whether you have a large backyard or a small windowsill, gardening is a joy to share with your child, season after season, from the first seed you plant together to the day you watch her grow larger than the green bean pole.

Parenting Resources

Beaudry, Christine. Ready, Set, Grow: The Benefits of Gardening with Kids. Baby Zone. Web Site: http://www.babyzone.com/kids/kids-fun/gardening-benefits_67895

Sedbrook, Judy. Children in the Garden. Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, 2010. Article: http://www.colostate.edu/Depts/CoopExt/4DMG/Children/ingarden.htm

Every Child Belongs in a Garden. University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, 2009-2011. Article: http://extension.unh.edu/hcfg/Garden_Children.htm

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