Emma Button blogs at http://www.mellowmummy.co.uk about how to stay cool, calm and collected despite the challenges of parenthood.
Gardening with children is a great way for them to learn a number of important life skills without feeling like it is structured education. I have grown my own vegetables and herbs and a few soft fruit ever since I first moved out of home and into my first flat – it seemed like a natural progression to teach my own daughter, now two, to grow her own.
You don't need a lot of space to grow your own vegetables. I've survived for about 8 years now from containers only – you can start growing your own tomatoes, potatoes or dwarf beans with a single bucket or large flower pot. In my garden, my toddler is in charge. She has a few pots of potatoes, tomatoes and strawberries that are all hers with which I let her do what she likes. The rest, I maintain with her help!
This summer my daughter has had to learn the arts of patience and self-discipline in the garden. On most days she is unable to resist the temptation of a nearly-ripe tomato or strawberry but she soon realises the disappointment when the fruit doesn't taste as good as she had expected and that it is now wasted.
Toddlers and young children also learn about the responsibilities for caring for something of their own. They have to frequently water and tend the plants to make sure they don't wilt or overgrow. I always feel like my daughter has a sense of purpose when she is in the garden and it is a wonderful way to get her to use up some of her excess energy.
Indoors we regularly grow a few pots of herbs on the window ledge (some of them get planted out if they survive long enough for me to remember). I love being able to share the smells and flavours of mint, chives, parsley and thyme with my daughter, even if she screws her nose up at some of them. We have also tried growing beansprouts in a moist jar but I think I've lost the nack – I'll have to wait until they teach my daughter at nursery or school so that she can teach me how to grow them.
If you'd like some tips on how to start growing vegetables with your children, give me a shout.