Tender Sustainability – Getting those babies to know our world
The moment my young son held his banana peel in front of the garbage and paused for a moment I knew we had a breakthrough. “Mommy, is this garbage, recycling or compost?” Eureka.
“Compost! Great catch, sweet boy!”
We always maintain a small home garden and encourage our littles to learn about the natural world around them. Even our almost two-year-old daughter will walk through our vegetable garden and gently caress the flowers and leaves. She is always inquisitive of what she sees and is always quick to point out the bugs. My kids also love playing in the dirt. Not all the time, but often enough that if they see mommy digging up something, my daughter will rush over and exclaim, “Mommy, whas dis!”
Interest usually starts somewhere small.
One of our greatest accomplishments so far with our young children is how aware they are of their natural world. We always strive to help them realize how important it is to learn and grow responsibly with nature.
Get them Involved
When my son was old enough, I helped him plant carrot seeds and he was absolutely hooked. He would run outside to our garden patch every day to see if the seeds were sprouting. He was in absolute awe that we were able to pull out these greens, see a carrot and then eat it.
Sowing seeds sometimes can be tricky for small hands (even big hands!). Some vegetable seeds come set in seed tape, like radishes, and it makes it easier for kids to set the tape down in the dirt and cover them. We learned from one of my son’s favorite shows, Story Bots, that radishes are one of the fastest growing vegetables. As a result, they are regularly in our garden, throughout the growing season. This is so perfect for children with short attention spans to be reminded more frequently of their efforts.
My daughter’s favorite thing, evidently, is harvesting. When our first round of radishes were ready to pull, I brought her outside and slipped on her teeny tiny Paw Patrol garden gloves and showed her what to do. She was hesitant at first, ripped a few leaves next, but when she finally pulled that radish out, she was stunned.
“I eat dis?” she asked.
Not yet, sweet girl! I showed her we needed to wash off the dirt and she ran into the house with me to clean it off. Then she sat happily, eating the little slices of her radish labor.
My mother-in-law one year bought a Batman watering can for my son and it only intensified his interest in being involved in the garden. It was such a wonderful appeal to his own interests and he felt so needed.
Batman needs to save the garden!
Play a Spy Game
My son and I oftentimes will hop into our garden area and play, “What’s this Veggie.” We walk around and I ask him to identify what fruit, veggie or flower he was looking at. Now, he will ask to play the Veggie Spy game on his own accord. He wants to know that he can label all the plants correctly. This has not only made him more appreciative of the progress and growth of the garden from day to day but has opened his eyes to what is growing around him.
Our home sits behind a small natural space in our town so our back fence hugs a lush, wooded area. we have wild edibles that grow in abundance around that fence and we always take pictures of flowers and bugs we have never seen before so we can try to identify them later.
One day, though, my son looked up and asked, “Mommy, are those cherries?”
I looked up and sure enough, there is a huge, wild cherry tree right behind our yard. It was later in the summer so there were not many cherries left, but somehow, he saw this single red dot while he was swinging on his playset. I applauded his amazing detective skills; what an awesome discovery! He was so excited to have found this all by himself. I reminded him the importance of learning what the natural world is trying to teach you and, sometimes, it all starts with a simple game.
Share their Experiences
We keep a small compost bin on our kitchen counter and when it is full, we often bring the kids out back to witness the magic that is the compost. As they continue to understand that saving our food scraps to feed the earth is both necessary to curb our waste habits and also imperative to keep our gardens healthy, the littles have become more appreciative of the process. This does not always bode well for the obvious decomposition magic.
My husband took my son one day to turn the compost and although my son tried his hardest, he decided he couldn’t stay to watch. “This is too stinky for me, dad.” Instead of getting annoyed at my son’s urge to run away and refusal to watch, my husband said to him, “This is super stinky, isn’t it! The compost is working hard today. If this is too stinky for you, I understand.” Giggling, my son ran away and into the house to tell me the whole story.
“Mommy, we went to turn the compost and it was the stinkiest compost in the whole world! I saw bugs in it! Daddy said it was so stinky, too!”
We laughed together and made a few jokes about poop, but he was learning. He was sharing the same stinky experience with us, and it delighted him; it has never turned him away.
----Photos from Angela Burge