As thoughts turn to summer, we look forward to having our kids and grandkids come to Mamaw and Papaw’s house for extended visits.
We are blessed with three grandkids: two boys, one a teen, one preteen, and a little girl of four. Extended visits are a delight for us, but occasionally the threat of boredom rears its ugly head.
While we do have a pool, prune fingers kick in, and the kids want to do other things.
We have found that bringing the grandkids into little landscaping and gardening projects is a great way to not only pass the time but encourage them to (gasp) maybe learn something.
First, we “assign an area” to each of the three.
This summer will be the first for our granddaughter, last summer she was really too young. These areas are important to each, as they have ownership of a little piece of the backyard.
So many different scenarios may be included in their spaces: Landscaping, plantings of flowers or vegetables, a small play area, or even a place to display original artwork.
Our yard is full of different kinds of rocks that we have collected over the years. I love to include a little lesson in geology as we discuss the differences in the appearance of the rocks. (I’m a geologist by training.)
The boys really enjoy rearranging rocks in their spaces. It always is amazing how imaginative kids can be when you turn them loose!
We have even gone on “Rock Hound Expeditions” in the local area, where they can collect new specimens for display.
Plants make up a large part of the total “design your space” project. We encourage the kids to use plants both in pots or containers as well as plantings in the ground itself. A trip to the local store always yields hearty annuals for very reasonable prices.
Favorite colors now appear as choices are made. Couched within this task comes the inevitable lesson in plant growth requirements.
Plus what is more fun than getting your hands dirty?
Vegetables? Sure, we encourage them to establish a small garden. Even though Mamaw and Papaw have to tend their horticultural masterpieces between visits, it is well worth the effort and gives us a fun activity as well. Tomatoes are always a favorite.
I urge them to also consider a few stalks of corn, and a watermelon vine is easy to control. What a thrill it becomes when we have that late summer meal with their contributions on the table!
Original artwork can be as simple as painting a store acquired concrete statue, or as complicated as letting the kids make their own sculpture with a bag of ready-mixed concrete. Let them come up with a project.
As we look forward to the summer’s activities, I am already thinking about the spaces for the grandkids.
Another benefit of this activity is that each summer produces a brand new adventure, in a totally new area. Starting from scratch, the kids, while having fun, also are developing a love of nature.
Even more important is the fact that they are learning to understand nature. Textbooks and labs are fine, but a real-life hands-on look provides a greater impact. This will be our second summer of the “kids’ yard” family project.