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Sun, March 29

Lain: Here are 10 garden projects that keep kids busy

Gardening projects can open up a new world for kids. (Courtesy)

Gardening projects can open up a new world for kids. (Courtesy)

With so many students home from school and families seeking interesting things to do that are healthy, safe and educational, this column is dedicated to you.

Our family’s fondest memories are of gardening, collecting worms from under the tree pots here at the nursery, picking a basket of flowers and bringing in the vegetable harvest. When my kids were tiny, they worked with me at the garden center. Instead of being paid with money, we would visit the pet shop where each kid chose a goldfish to release into the family pond. This was always after an ice cream stop.

Plants have the power to calm, heal and inspire. My grandson and I hang together in the same way. His unofficial nickname is “Garden Guy Junior,” and we love gardening together. These are experiences that bind generations with lifelong memories.

The gardeners here at Watters Garden Center sat down and came up with 10 foolproof ideas to keep kids busy while involving them in nature and gardening over this extended break. A HUGE thank you to Lisa, Amy, Doreen and Michele with ideas for this column.

  1. Plants that are fun to grow. Plant color packs and 4-inch pots of geraniums, dahlias, petunias, impatiens, salvia, lantana, eggplant, cornor peppers. Whichever piques your child’s interest is the one to try. A springtime trip to the garden center is so much fun for young and old gardeners.
  2. Teach kids about beneficial insects. Bugs that are good for the garden are available here at Watters. Pick up a packet of ladybugs, praying mantises or red worms, then release them in the home gardens.
  3. Let them pick and harvest. Let them harvest the vegetables and help prepare them for a meal the family shares. Help them cut flowers and arrange them in a vase to place on the dinner table or in their bedrooms.
  4. Compost together. With trash cans overflowing from all that home cooking, create a space to start your own compost pile. You’ll be amazed by the composting power of plants.
  5. Plant miniature gardens. Air plants, terrariums and miniature container gardens are popular with kids. Choose a wide shallow container and plant with small foliage or small ground cover plants. Spark the artist within by using a child’s toy in each garden creation. HotWheels, toy soldiers and plastic farm animals all make great focal points in a newly planted terrarium.
  6. Plant places to play. Make a tepee using bamboo sticks tied together at the top with twine. Help your child plant peas or beans at the base of each pole and watch them grow. If you have enough space, grow a Sunflower House for Kids.
  7. Plant a garden for birds and butterflies. Kids love to chase butterflies and watch birds at a feeder. Teach children how to attract hummingbirds and butterflies into the yard. Provide these winged friends with plants for shelter, a place to protect their young, necessary food, flowers and water.
  8. Don’t forget to take photos of your children in the garden and share them with friends and family. These moments will be treasured for years to come.
  9. Give them their own planting spot. Please give them a row at the back of your vegetable garden, a small raised garden bed or a group of containers on the deck. Teach them pride of ownership with their own space to plant.
  10. Grow plants from seed. Seed germination is a fascinating thing to adults and even more so to children. Be sure to pick seeds that germinate quickly to keep their interest. Here are some natural plants children can start by seed. They are fun to watch, develop and readily available at the garden center.

Easy-to-grow vegetables — beans, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, sprouts, squash and pumpkins.

Easy-to-grow flowers — sunflowers,nasturtiums, zinnias, marigolds and wildflowers.

These are just a few ideas to lift spirits and provide encouragement and connection to nature’s ability to boost physical and mental health.

As passionate plant people, we know you have great ideas that boost physical and mental health as well. Share them with us, and we’ll share them with the broader community. Together, we can help the next generation delight in the wonder of plants.

Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Road in Prescott, or contacted through his web site at or

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