Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Stone Barns Center on Gardening with Kids

Gardening is a favorite activity of ours with the kids, whether simply digging up weeds in the dirt or growing a garden. So naturally, we focus on family gardening for the final week of our Summer Activities month. Family gardening can mean so many things so find what is most enjoyable to you and your kids. We reached out to Jack and Shannon Algiere, Four-Season Famers at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture for their thoughts and suggestions. Having spent lots of time at Stone Barns with the family, I knew they would be ideal "helpers" for this story yet it is beyond what we even expected. Enjoy and get out and dig in the dirt with your kids! You may see the feature story on tada! shop here.

Why should we garden with kids?

Gardening with kids is a great way to maintain a connection to nature as a family.

The sensory learning that we experience in the garden through texture, form, smell, and taste supports developmental cognition in early education. Gardening can articulate many educational subjects and themes—science, social history, cultural identity, technical systems, math.

When kids become part of the process, they develop an appreciation for healthy food. As a personal example, our kids may be picky at the table, but when they are in the garden, they’ll graze all day on berries or spinach. Being in the garden and involving kids in the process of raising food brings a level of respect and appreciation to food and a working knowledge of food sources and whole nutrition.

Gardening builds confidence through seeing the process from seed to the final result. It is also community building on an intra- and interpersonal level. Nature, food, spiritual elements and human interaction come together. Even more so, we’re acknowledging our place within a greater ecosystem.

How do you get started? What are specific projects to do with children, from container projects to full-on gardening?

Projects are so place-based dependent. First, assess your environment. What are the growing capabilities, where are the light sources? Kids can get actively involved in making observations about their environment. Second, choose what is best for you. Are you going to start your garden in-ground, in raised beds, or in containers? (If so kids can help choose containers). Third, test your soil. Soil tests are a great kids activity from collecting the samples to reviewing the results. Fourth, source your soil. Whether you are using soil or compost or a combination of both, get kids actively involved in choosing what you will use and make sure to explain way. Fifth, make a garden plan. Decide what you and your family want to grow in your garden. Kids can read seed catalogues and help place orders. They can also help create a map for how you hope your garden will look once you get started.

Are there garden tools you recommend for kids?

Rubber containers in different fun colors (rubber is not too hard or dangerous for little hands), little garden rakes, leaf rakes, hoes, a watering can, labels, a little wheelbarrow, wagons, a magnifying glass, gloves and dump-trucks—our kids love to load them up with weeds or vegetables and find areas to deliver and dump them out. (see Jack and Shannon's complete list of products here)

Any advice for parents looking to include gardening into their summer activities?

Some great activities that kids love are:

· Taking a trip to a local farm or greenhouse and sourcing seedlings for your garden.

· Making labels for different plants in the garden.

· Planting seeds and watering.

· Using a magnifying glass for bug identification (beneficial/pest).

· Harvesting plants and placing things into a bucket.

· Look for local farms like Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture to volunteer, take a class, or just take a look at what we have.

· Start a group and go berry picking together.

Jack and Shannon are our guest editors on tada! shop this week. Be sure to read their story and shop their thoughtful list of recommended gardening products for kids. The list includes everything from rain boots ("sometimes the wet summer days are the most fun") to the perfect set of kid's garden tools.



  1. Very interesting post!! I love the idea of making the labels for the different plants in the garden. Will be a great family activity to do with the kids this weekend.

  2. Good Post! Very informative, glad that you are going to continue writing things like this!