Gardening with boys

SandL(6a KS)May 22, 2006

Most of the posts I've read regarding gardening with kids has been about girls. Though I would have loved to have had a little fairy princess of my own, I have two wonderful and extremely rambunctious boys. Sam is 4. Liam is 2. Neither one has a gardening bone in thier bodies.

What they do have is a pension for distruction.

Being that thier favorite sport is baseball and soccer I'm constantly saying, "Please don't hit the dog!", "Stop walking on the plants!", "Who just annhilated my new fairy statue?" Boys!!!

I think I have had to take their baseball bats (albeit they be little and made of plastic) away from them every single day for hitting anything but the balls they were intended for. How to get them interested in mommy's garden?

I created a small bed for them to plant seeds in. We planted a whole bunch of Black-Eyed Susans (none of come up). Maybe it's the age but as soon as we no longer needed the shovels (yet another item to hit with) the interest in planting seeds was over.

Anybody have this kind of trouble with thier sons? How did you get them interested in gardening?


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Once we were done digging I let them move the dirt around a little bit with their tonka dump trucks they had fun with that for a few minutes. Otherwise once the digging was done, they grew bored. I think at the preschool age their attention span is still time limited...

    Bookmark   May 24, 2006 at 12:34AM
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girlndocs(8 WA)

I don't understand why gardening with boys would necessarily be different than gardening with girls. I think there are assumptions about gender roles going on here that are not necessarily good things.

I have a 2-year old and a 7-year-old. One is a boy and one is a girl and I'm not telling which. They both love planting seeds, digging holes, climbing around, playing trucks, picking flowers, watching insects of all kinds, playing with water/mud, setting up tents, and helping mix potting soil and compost.

Do all your children the favor of involving them in gardening exactly the same way, boys or girls -- to whatever degree they are interested and in whatever activities they're interested. I've worked with kids for something like 10 years now and I've observed that both boys and girls span the spectrum of interests -- almost all kids love insects, soil, and growing things. Boys as a group are no less interested in sunflower houses, tiny "fairy" or "gnome" gardens, and butterflies than girls as a group are.

Your boys might very well not be too interested in gardening, but I think that has more to do with their individual personalities, and maybe their ages, than the fact that they are boys.

Not_so_chey is right that preschoolers of both sexes don't have much of an attention span, and they don't yet have the ability to envision what the future will bring like adult gardeners can. So they tend to be more interested in short-term, short-duration activities.

They might like helping you fill pots with dirt and poke in sunflower seeds, or fill a large container with water, floating plants and tadpoles. A big tripod structure made of bamboo and string is fun, because they can play in and out of it even before the bean vines grow and cover it. Helping to water and harvest is fun. Helping to fill the birdbaths and later watch the birds is fun. Mud is always good.


    Bookmark   May 26, 2006 at 3:48PM
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lizinnh(z5 NH)

I garden with my boys. We started last year when they were 2 and 4. We call the seeds our babies and they love dropping them in the hole. They water them, they say "Bye bye babies." We go for a 'garden walk' and look to see if they sprouted like jack in the beanstalk. My son also plays soccer and tee ball. Including them in the garden process creates a healthy respect for nature and they are less likely to trample the plants. I even met a garden web friend who sends candy with seeds or plants in exchanges. They get excited when they see a bubble envelope and wonder if it is from the 'tootsie roll guy'. They also love it if you find any bugs or worms. I am pretty sure that is the highlight for them. I hope to create memories that they can pass down to the next generation. Liz

    Bookmark   May 30, 2006 at 7:33PM
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mehearty(So ME z5a)

I have my 6 y.o. son help w/the rougher tasks. Boys do tend to be rougher sometimes, and that's just how it usually is. DS loves to water the gardens. He loves squirting the hose (sometimes at me). We've planted seeds, and he's very gentle with the baby plants but he loses interest in them after a few weeks. The most excitement he took in a plant was a huge sunflower he grew from seed at preschool last year. When that puppy flowered, he was on cloud 9.

I take the neighborhood kids around our property to look at the plants & trees. While most are more interested in the insects, the girls seem to favor the flowers. The good news is that I now have a slug & caterpillar remover since I won't touch the things. DS loves to save my plants from the bugs. =) We also have him fill the wheelbarrel with dirt or mulch when needed.

I think when he's a little older he may be more interested in actual gardening. Right now, he's worth his weight in gold just keeping the bugs at bay.

Good luck!!

    Bookmark   June 1, 2006 at 6:49PM
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I have an almost 5 yo boy and a 2 yo girl. I think some of it is definitely personality as well as marketing, so to speak. Ds has always liked certain aspects, like pulling at the seedpods of my blue flax. Last year, he suddenly discovered gardens. My sister and I took the kids to the Chicago Botanic Garden, figuring that as was usual, we'd spend an hour in the train garden, and be lucky to see much of anything else at all. But somehow that day, everything seemed to catch his attention. Mom - look at this! was heard constantly. Ok, so usually it was a fountain or a bird, but he was excited! We spent 3 hours there! It was amazing!

This year, he started getting interested in picking out seeds, and at Menards, we picked out a bunch of annuals. His attention span has varied for the actual work, but he is now claiming much of the garden as his own I have to admit, I wasn't expecting it, but it happened! So, you never know.

Oh, yeah - he's also my destrctasaurus - prefers knocking down towers to building them. He has recently started helping me weed...a great way to harness that impulse. ;)

    Bookmark   June 3, 2006 at 12:01AM
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Seed balls. Boys and girls love this one. I buy all the marked down seeds at the end of the season - we open all the packages and dump them in a big rubbermaid bowl with dirt (clay type of dirt works best) - mix all together with a little water and then make little seed balls. Sit them out on a board like they are cookies to "bake" in the sun. When they are hard you can distribute them where ever you like. We like to throw them beside the road. After the rains come (we live in the dry part of the country), little bunches of flowers grow. :)

    Bookmark   June 5, 2006 at 7:28PM
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Slug patrol. I'm inundated with slugs here, and I don't like to use poisons in my garden, so my boys, especially my 4 year old, enjoy going on slug patrol.

They also each have their own small garden patches... they dug their own holes, I helped them place their seeds, and now they go out every day to water and check for growth. They love it, although in small doses.

My younger boy likes sweeping the paths. To some extent they like weeding and laying mulch. They both enjoy harvesting herbs, with careful supervision. I just try to involve them in my activities and they like taking part, for short periods at a time. Anything that strains their attention span would be counterproductive, but I'm trying to give them an appreciation and enjoyment of gardening.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2006 at 12:08PM
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nitasher(central Alberta)

We have four boys, 8, 5, 2 1/2, and three months. The little one doesn't help much, but the others all water, weed and plant seeds. They had no interest at all until this year, not that it's a lot. Slowly I know that they will learn to love gardening. Just don't "make" kids do what they don't want to do. That is a good way to make sure they HATE it!


    Bookmark   June 7, 2006 at 9:36PM
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I feel your pain! I have a four, almost five, year old boy, who is slightly interested in gardening with me, and an 8 month old boy. To encourage my oldest in the garden, I try to play up the things *he* enjoys - interesting insects, battling the weeds, grubbing in dirt, spraying the hose, and (in loose dirt) digging holes. (I've even had him use his plastic bat to club the soil clinging to the roots of large weeds.) He has his own gardening gloves, and even though he doesn't usually help, I think he feels like gardening is for him, too. When I'm frustrated, I try to remember that he doesn't keep on task for hardly anything, such is the attention span of a pre-schooler....

When ds was two, I made a pretend garden for him. I got some (very) cheap potting soil, various toy gardening tools, itty bitty gloves, and a few bunches of plastic greenery and flowers. I put all these into one of those under-the-bed storage containers, and he dug and planted to his little heart's content. For novelty, I later added some plastic fishing worms. Those were a big hit!

Children, are very sensual, they soak up information through all their senses. I try to show him the different texures (lamb's ears, sunflower leaves, rose petals), different smells (crushed salvia leaves, lilac blossoms, etc), we listen to the bees and birds, and look at the endless varieties of colors. I think I am gaining some valuable ground in creating an awareness of the value of the garden. Don't get me wrong, he still uses his plastic golf club (aptly christened "the whacker") to, well, whack anything vertical. But last autumn, he very meticulously helped me collect four o'clock seeds for my sisters; I actually had to encourage him to stop.

I've really enjoyed reading everyone else's thoughts and experiences. Great question sandl!

    Bookmark   June 13, 2006 at 12:10AM
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singcharlene(Zone 5)

I used to feel this same way. I have one boy 8 yrs old and I used to be sad that he didn't love gardening more. So I got more creative. Here are some ideas:
-We did a batman garden in a whiskey barrell planting all things black (black pansies) and put a big plastic bat man in the middle of it.
-I bought him a chart of the "bad bugs" which became the enemy for him to explore and destroy.
-We released lady bugs, praying mantises which we hatched in the house in a jar then released.
-Edibles esp. strawberries and grapes are a big hit, chocolate mint, spearmint to put in drinks, snapdragons that talk, edible nasturtiums.
-One year I left a garden box empty except for dirt so he could dig while I gardened.
-I found a wooden beat up playhouse that I tucked in the corner in the garden and planted snail vines all over it. It had bars in the open windows, I told him it was a jail house and he and his friends would play in there arrest each other with handcuffs for hours (so I could garden).
-Boys love stinky things :) and I found some really stinky repellent plants that ward off rabbits-the kids loved those and he showed all of his friends so they could pick them and yell EWWWWWW!
-We went door to door one year and he and his friends sold our veggies really cheap to neighbors and he got to keep a portion.
-I know someone who did an "Owie" garden with aloe for boo boo's, chamomile for chamomile tea and upset stomach.
-Then there were some days when he wasn't interested and destructive like you mentioned and I had already spent most of my day doing the kid stuff and I'd just say "mom's gardening for one hour what will you do where I can see you?"
Anyway, it was more selfish than anything because I wanted to garden so bad I had to make it appealing!

There's hope! Now he's 8 1/2 and we just moved to a new house on a few acres. He helped his dad put every screw in the garden boxes, fill them with soil & fertilizer (after sliding down the truck load delivered pile of compost and manure with his friends thinking it was cool to smell like manure 'is this really poop?), he helped pick out all the plants and seeds and planted them all. I gave him his own space and a few things died because he didn't water and I had to bite my lip because I feel like he's old enough to take a little responsibility for something he worked so hard on (although it's been so hot I shoot them a little water when it needs it once a day).

Good luck to you! It's fun to hopefully put the gardening spark in them and see if catches.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 11:44PM
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Hmm, I have a 2 1/2 year old boy and so far he seems to love gardening. Gardening is new to me so I'm learning. Of course I transplanted some things in the spring and he plucked them back up. Three times! Of course now I think he gets that the plants stay in there. He has his gloves and like to pretend to cut the forsythia with his play chainsaw. He really is an outside boy! Always has been...even as an infant. He liked looking at anything green (even silk plants).

Of course he would rather have an adult shovel, not a kiddie one. His favorite thing is to water the plants. Evertime I set the hose down I make sure it's set to 'mist'. He can't do as much damage with it like that. (Once he started to flood the garage!)

Ahh, boys!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2006 at 10:19PM
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GREAT ideas, singcharlene! This one got clipped. :)

    Bookmark   June 22, 2006 at 9:17AM
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lori4557(5a MI)

As much as I wanted my 3yo son to like gardening, my heart stopped every time he stepped through the garden gate. He would stomp, swipe, chop and mangle every plant in his path.
He took absolutely no interest until trucks and miscellaneous toys began to get "stuck in the mud or half buried" in places he couldnÂt cause mass destruction.
IÂll head out to the garden in the evening then rush back to the house
With huge grin, he races to the door shovel in hand!
ItÂs a lot of fun. We both thoroughly enjoy this time together. Best of all
He is beginning to take a genuine interest and is much more thoughtful of my plants.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2006 at 1:50PM
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Balls will roam--save yourself a headache and your kids a punishment and get a short fence (this will also take the whacks from the bats as they walk along.)

Giant plants and edible plants are loved by little ones: sunflowers, pumpkins, pole beans, and carrots.
Radishes are quick to germinate and come in just about every color (red, white, black, and 'Easter egg' which are various pastels.)

    Bookmark   July 17, 2006 at 9:13AM
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I love that "Batman" garden. great idea. I garden with my 3 boys. my older boys 10 + 12 dont have as much interest as my youngest -8. The older ones have pots that look like heads that they filled with grasses to make hair. - one has a grass 'mohawk'
We planted a garden of 'tough' perrenials(orange daylies and rudbekia) and a bamboo screen around the trampoline
My youngest has the 2 raised beds for his vegetable garden. I helped him build a bean teepee between the 2(but the beans we got were miss marked and turned out to be bush beans! luckily he also planted a flowering vine.)
he wanted to plant pumkins but they turned out to be yellow squash! he also added lots of flowers. he likes red. corn,carrots,strawberries,gourds and a couple peppers. he checks it everyday and one day spent a long time finding rocks to put along the edge.
The key was letting him pick out the veggies and flowers himself. he is totally hooked.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2006 at 7:09AM
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I only had 2 girls with just a moderate interest in gardening. I have been a 4-H leader for almost 20 years and the most active members in gardening have been boys. I enjoy their spirit, energy and imagination. For about 7 years I had a group that started when they were in 1st grade and lasted until high school - all boys. This week was the county fair and I was able to catch up on the lives of these now either college students or seniors in HS. What they learned in gardening and 4-H continues to fuel their lives.
The boys in the 4-H/school/daycare group I work with now do spend a lot of time with bugs (Oriental Trading Co. has great bug catchers). They like to eat - strawberries, raspberries, peas, carrots and even broccoli. Edible flowers and herbs are also good. Pelleted carrot and lettuce seeds, beets, beans and other large seeds work well with boys. Onion sets grow fast.
I have also used Lincoln Logs with a designated place to create a Pioneer homestead. Building garden furniture, garden art and bird houses can create interest.
Check out your county fair - kids love to enter and show others what they have done. A friend of mine has 2 boys, 4th and 1st grade. Her boys main reason to grow things is to enter at the fair.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2006 at 1:29PM
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starfyre(z8 wa)

Do you have a 6x6 area they can have for their own? Build a pole teepee (leaving a wider space between two of the poles to become a "door") and plants some kind of vines - scarlet runner beans work well. If they plant and water they will enjoy the vine covered "fort" they will have made themselves... Dig the circle within the teepee about 2-3 inches down and pour in some play sand. Add a little wood stool or an old crate for a "shelf" and give ample jars, a net, magnifying glasses, and bug books, to store on their shelf. OR the little cheap army guys, some hot wheels monster trucks, sand toys whatever your little guys are into. Mine disappear for HOURS into their little teepees (they are 5 and 7 and each have their own ivy covered teepees in our woodland garden) At Walmart I found some kid sized plastic camping lanterns so they can hang a little light as it gets dark in there (we go through TONS of batteries for them but the kids love the "camping" feel!) My youngest takes a blankie and pillow out there in the evening and pretends to camp out, I've even lost my smallest pots and pans to his teepee - he turns the crate over and uses it as a stove. The older one likes to take his knex out, makes "guns" and peeks through gaps in his vines at his brothers' teepee and pretends to be hunting the enemy, any time his little brother sticks his head into view I hear a little "pow pow"... They still hit balls all over the place, and my hydrangeas are battered cause the big poofy flowers are great to shatter with baseball bats, and they chase the cat with wooden spoons yelling indian war cries, but at least a few hours in the day I have piece and quiet and actually have to go looking for them cause it gets "too" quiet... Anyone with boys will know what I mean by that!

Above all the project gave them a little more respect for the plants around them - they started seeing things as hiding places and "houses" or "cars" or "grocery stores" (that would be the blueberry and strawberry patch lol!) Like I said they still get into trouble, but not quite as much as before they grew their own "cool garden." This year my 5 year old has taken on some lambs ears that I was about to pull out cause they were getting messy. He put them in a big pot and keeps it behind his teepee where the sun shines a little through the trees... My heart fluttered a little when I caught him sneaking outside with a sandwich and a pillow and went and sat by his plants for lunch.

Sunflower houses work too - instead of a teepee just plant sunflowers in a square or circle and leave a 2 foot gap for a "door." I like the ivy cause its a pretty permanent fixture that they don't have to wait for each spring like you would annual vines and I keep it under control by surrounding it with gravel over plastic so the ivy wont spread to the rest of my trees and plants...

    Bookmark   August 18, 2006 at 2:09PM
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starfyre(z8 wa)

Oh! and my five year old has about 5 birdfeeders of varying kinds that he likes to sit and watch and refills whenever they get low - and he has no qualms about telling everyone they are HIS birdfeeders - I let him pick them out at the store and he picks the food to go in them... My 7 year old now has taken to drawing the birds he sees in the feeders - of course they are usually scary bad guys and a volcano is sometimes involved but the pictures are of birds he sees at least.... I bought him a spiral bound sketchbook and lots of the twist crayons that he keeps in a gallon ziplock bag in his teepee for when the need to color a bug or flower - or bird flying over a volcanao - strikes....

    Bookmark   August 18, 2006 at 2:15PM
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Plant a "pizza garden" with tomatoes, oregano, basil, etc. to teach them that great things come from the garden.

Boys love rocks and sticks--have them make moveable garden sculpture--just be sure to tell them where they can put their designs. Show them how you can bend green wood when pruning shrubs to make rounded shapes. Have them collect interesting rocks and sticks while on walks to add.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2006 at 10:04AM
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We just boutght our house last year, and have very little room to garden. To get my 6 year old son involved in gardening, for his birthday, he got two tomato plants, a little rake, dirt, sunflower seeds and a card that read, two seeds of your choice. We went to the store and he picked out cucumbers and greenbeans(as you can see he loves veggies). Now everytime we go outside he is constantly checking on HIS garden to see what can be picked and eaten. He has decided that we don't have enough so he does extra chores (bonus for me) to earn money to buy more seeds for next year's garden. He even wants to buy his daddy hot pepper plants so that daddy will garden too. While we work in the garden, my 3 year old sits and makes "dirt angels" in the pile of dirt we have on the patio. I had planned on filling in a new bed for next year, but it has kept him so entertained, I think I will wait to do so until Spring. The only down-side: lots of laundry and extremely dirty baths!

    Bookmark   September 10, 2006 at 2:37AM
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Great ideas for getting my nephew involved in the garden! Thanks :)

    Bookmark   March 22, 2010 at 11:44AM
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