A parent and child gardening at a Five Rivers MetroParks. FIVE RIVERS METROPARKS

With kids at home, it’s the perfect time to share the magic of gardening

Gardening isn’t just for grownups. From toddlers to teens, gardening can be educational, exciting and enjoyable.

With schools still closed and children learning from home, it’s an ideal time for some active engagement – April also happens to be Kids Garden Month. And with the added emphasis on hand washing, that dirt under their little fingernails doesn’t stand a chance. Even if mom and dad don’t have a green thumb between them, gardening can be a fun family experience.

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“It doesn’t have to be hard and you don’t have to put in a lot of time or resources,” said Shawna Balog, Five Rivers MetroParks education specialist. “Gardening is an inexpensive and fun way to learn.”

While the Miami Valley is still experiencing occasional cold temperatures – less than ideal for outdoor planting – aspiring young gardeners can get started inside.

“I have a 6- and a 10-year-old and we started with seeds,” Balog said. “It’s a perfect time to plant seeds and wait to plant the seedlings outdoors.”

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Seeds that germinate quickly and easily – like lettuce and radishes – will enable young gardeners to see the results sooner rather than later. By planting in a clear plastic cup or jar, they will also be able to see the root structure.

“The excitement of everyday going over to see if anything has changed is really wonderful,” Balog said. “I’m not a kid anymore and I still think it’s magical to see something growing from a seed.”

If you don’t have seeds, kitchen scraps will do – carrot tops or sweet potato will work just fine. Kitchen Scrap Gardening is one of the Top 10 recommended activities posted by KidsGardening (kidsgardening.org) an organization designed to create opportunities for kids to play, learn, and grow through gardening. Other activities on the site include a Garden Scavenger Hunt, Pressed Flowers and Grow Your Own Salad, all complete with easy-to-follow instructions.

A house full of kids can also be a house full of helpers.

“They can help by carrying buckets and organizing tools, which is especially fun if they have a few of their own tools,” Balog said.

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And with April also designated as Ohio Native Plant Month, it’s a perfect time to appreciate the natural beauty the area has to offer without lifting a finger.

“Getting out to our local parks and seeing the wildflowers is good for all of us,” Balog said.

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