Two quick ways to engage your preschooler in gardening

I took our nearly four-year-old daughter Z to a plant sale last weekend and she had a wonderful time. I noticed that we have a couple of unspoken rituals related to plant browsing.

  • When we're looking at the herbs, we always pull off a leaf and crush it between our thumb and finger to release the scent of the herb. I started doing this in March when Z and I were shopping for our spring garden plants as a way to distract her from some now-forgotten crisis. Apparently it made an impression on her as she's done it every time since. Last weekend as she was walking down a greenhouse aisle she wandered over to an unnamed herb, plucked a leaf, crushed it between her fingers and said, "Yummm. This basil smells so good." She completely surprised me at her proper identification!
  • During that first spring shopping trip, I told Z she could pick out her very own plant for our garden. Now, every time we buy plants, Z picks one out. She shows more interest when she's picking out her own plant and she carefully watches her plants for signs that they need water or for flowers to pick or fruit or veggies to eat. The second or third plant she picked out, she claimed that she could see it growing right then and there.
We're working on a raised bed that we hope will be ready for fall planting that is situated next to her playhouse in our garden. Our plan is to let her control the planting of this bed - pick out what she wants to plant, tend to the plants, or just play in the dirt if she wants to.