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gardening games for kids

Getting Your Gardeners in Gear

With gardening come routine jobs that are fun at first, but they might get a bit boring with time.

Your challenge as head gardener is to keep that interest level high with a combination of education, games, and contests.

Gardening games can help achieve all three of these goals.

Here are my favorite backyard gardening games for your kids to enjoy, too. Have fun!

Flower rangers:

Gardeners define a weed as any plant in the wrong place.

Roses can be weeds if they are invading your watermelon patch.

Weeds are bad because they steal nutrients that our flowers and veggies need.

Show the children how to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. Set up an adversarial relationship with weeds.

They are "invaders" and must be eradicated.

As the Flower Rangers, your kids must eliminate these evil enemy forces. (Oh, heck, let them wear costumes if they like.)

Weed whackers:

Start a contest: Who can pull the most weeds each week. The winner gets to pick a movie to see.

And the reward for a morning of weeding? A rain dance in the sprinkler!

Rain, rain, come and play:

Kids like to water. Buy a watering wand or a nozzle with several settings. Show the kids how to set it on a shower setting so that you don't wash the plants away with a powerful jet of water.

You can also buy hose heads of different shapes to spray the lawn or flowerbed.

This is also a good opportunity for lessons about runoff. Let the kids water for five minutes. Dig down a couple of inches and show them how the soil is still dry underneath.

Explain that if you don't water often, the topsoil creates an impermeable barrier and sheds the water. 

Snail races:

Set a timer and see who can collect the most snails (or slugs) in 10 minutes. This is a good game for dusk when the little slimy creatures come out for a snack.

Or you could make it even more fun and do it by flashlight.

The grateful deadheads:

To keep annuals blooming, you have to cut or snap off spent blossoms. This is a very fun task for kids.

Aphids away!

Aphids are those little black, green, or white bugs that swarm your prize roses and leave nothing in their wake. 

The best way to get rid of these little pests is just to wash them away!

Turn the nozzle of your hose on "jet" and take aim!

The first kid with an aphid-free rosebush wins!

Earwig booby trap:

Leave a damp newspaper rolled up in the garden. Earwigs crawl in. You throw it away.

Snail stomp:

'Nuff said. This one is not for the squeamish.

Snail trap:

Put a board about an inch off the ground. Snails will crawl under it for shelter. See who can trap the most.

Tulip garden:

Plant bulbs in a pattern that spells out your kid's name or initials.

For best results, plant on a hillside or in an area that can be viewed from above, such as a second-story window.

Teepee garden:

Arrange three poles in a teepee shape and plant fast-growing vines such as nasturtiums or morning glories at the bottom. In a couple of months, she'll have a leafy tent.

Sunflower clubhouse:

In a sunny spot, plant an outline of rows of sunflower seeds in a shape about 5-by-5-feet square. (Leave open space on one side for the "door.")

You can even plant baby's tears inside to form a "carpet."

Frozen Flowers

Harvest edible flowers and freeze them in ice cubes for conversation "ice breakers" at your next party.

Goofy gourds:

Growing gourds can be a lot of fun if you have a long growing season (at least 120 days of sun).

After the gourds dry out, you can carve them, make birdhouses out of them, or even paint faces on them.

Personalized pumpkins:

Plant pumpkins and when they are about the size of a baseball, help your child write his name on one.

Then take a paper clip and punch shallow holes along the name. When the pumpkin is ready to harvest, you'll know whose is whose. The name will be visible in a hue lighter than the pumpkin skin.

Cucumber bottles:

This is a little wacky but fun. Plant cucumber seeds. When the cucumbers are about an inch long, slide one at the bottom into a plastic bottle. (Keep it shaded or else it will cook).

When the little cucumber grows up, take it off the vine, bottle and all. You'll have the horticultural equivalent of the ship in the bottle.

Seed savers:

At the end of the summer, let the kids go around collecting seeds from spent flowers and vegetables.

Help them put labels with the seeds and dry them. Then put the seeds in paper (not plastic) bags and label the bags.

Next summer, they have their own stash of seeds to plant. You could also talk to them about the different kinds of seeds and discuss why some are shaped differently.

Who knew learning games could be so much fun?!

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