Last week, on a warm and sunny babysitting day, I asked the three-year-old nephew if he wanted to help me plant some peas. His response — delivered while spinning and jumping and grinning — was pretty clear: ”Yes! Yes! I do I do I do!”
So, we found a bent trowel (note: bring my own gardening tools next time), grabbed a half-full packet of sugar snap peas, and headed out into the yard, where my brother had built a couple raised beds last spring. I was excited to teach my nephew a bit about gardening and seeds and where our food comes from. But, he had other ideas. And, in the end, it was my nephew who taught me.
Here are a few of the lessons my nephew shared with me. Good lessons for the garden. Or, really, for life in general:
1. Have fun.
If your garden fun feels more like garden chores, invite a kid to help. Or — no kids available? — just channel your inner-child. Try giggling or spinning in circles. That helps. Children have a knack for finding the fun in the everyday. Even weeding — which we had to do before planting the peas — is a blast. Seriously. How often do we get to stick our fingers in the dirt and pull up a plant? This stuff is fun.
2. Perfection isn’t the point.
Once the weeding was done, I dug a trench for the peas. Then, I showed the three-year-old nephew how to carefully plant them, one at a time. Would he like to try? Oh yes! With enthusiasm! And, um, a bit less care. Or, let's say, more efficiency. After struggling to pull a fist-full of seeds from the packet, the nephew decided the easiest course of action was to simply upend the packet over the trench. Practicality is more important than perfection.
3. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
This kid loves vegetables and fresh fruit. But, far as I know, he has never eaten a sugar snap pea. Did that quash his enthusiasm? No way!
4. Take breaks. Often.
Compared to most adults, I have the attention span of a squirrel. Compared to my nephew, most squirrels are Zen masters. This kid doesn't stop. And, who can blame him? There's a whole world to explore out there: bugs, planes, birds, and more. So we did. We explored. We picked flowers, visited the cat and slid down the slide. These breaks slowed us down, and made the pea-planting take longer than I'd expected. But, they also made the whole experience more rich. We didn't just plant peas. We explored.
5. Seeds (and gardens) really are magical.
Once the seed-planting was done, it was all about fun in the sun. There was the slide to revisit. The yard to spin around in. The grass to fall down on. And, that big huge pile of mulch to dig in. But, less than five minutes after we'd finished planting the peas, my nephew was back in the garden. He wanted to see the plants, of course. Makes sense. He'd already accepted the magical truth that those wrinkly pea pods could grow whole plants, so why not also believe that they could sprout in just a few minutes. The whole seed-to-plant thing is big magic. The rest is just details.
Invite a child into your garden, and soon you'll be giggling while weeding too.
Do you garden with kids? What lessons have they shared with you?
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