- Some people have a green thumb and since children are actually people some will have green thumbs and others will not. For the child with a green thumb they will most likely be willing to weed at a younger age and exhibit a level of precision beyond their age. Other children will need a little maturing before being allowed to pull anything in the garden. I've found that the average 8 year old can definitely be an asset to family gardening time. Younger than that depends on the child. It's important to assign age appropriate tasks. I don't let the younger ones completely off the hook. At 6, Sam is quite willing and able to pick potato bugs and feed them to the chickens. At 8, Amber can pull weeds around onions, carrots, peas...vegetables that grow somewhat low and are easily identifiable. At 11 and 12, Nick and Emily are expected to have complete knowledge of the plants and pull weeds, root and all.
- Weed with your kids. I've tried sending them out to weed in years past only to have crying children at the door within minutes. Someone isn't working fast enough. Someone isn't pulling the weeds, root and all. Someone is singing too loud. You get the idea, right?
- Garden in the morning when everyone is fresh; keep this time open every day if possible, so everyone can expect that they'll be weeding at that time.
- Have a definite plan for the day. Each day when we are done weeding, we take a walk around the vegetable garden to see what needs the most weeding. We decide, for example, that tomorrow we'll weed the peas, carrots, and sunflowers. I've learned this lesson the hard way because for me once I'm out their and I see weeds, I want to stay out their and pull them. Kids don't much care if the weeds get pulled today or tomorrow. So having a concrete plan allows them to keep the end in sight.
- Put a weeder on each end of a row to weed towards each other. The row doesn't seem so long and when you meet up you get to high five each other and yell out Row 1 - Done. Work together from start to finish - just because your row is done, doesn't mean your done. If there's an odd number of weeders, mom works alone on her row until another weeder if freed up to jump in on the other end.
- Sing! Camp songs, Marian songs, Country songs. It doesn't matter, just sing!
- Have a treat when it's all done. Anyone who's put in their time gets a treat.
- Be PATIENT - the weeds will grow faster than your young weeder's ability, but soon enough you will have a little gardener at your side sharing their dreams of having a garden of their own.
*Note: Kids are far better helpers in the vegetable garden than flower garden. Why? Food is at stake, that's why.
Do you have any tips to share? Leave a comment.