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Getting Out into the Garden

Getting Out into the Garden
Sherry Jennings

As the snow from the mid-March nor'easter recedes, Mother Nature displays her wondrous beauty in the outer world moment by moment. The maple flowers explode like fireworks carpeting the ground with tiny magenta stars. The soft gray buds of the pussy willow plump themselves up until they are just the right size for a ladybug's pillow. The delicate purple chalices of the crocus collect the early morning dew as daffodils and tulips display their bright garments. Soon the green rosettes of dandelions will raise up miniature suns to greet the day as tons and tons of flat green shapes are sprinkled overhead, leafing the world.

Venturing further afield will reveal the wonders of wilder terrains. Sharp eyes will reward you with tiny colt's foot suns, violets, vinca, lady slippers, and the fragrant trailing arbutus. What a beautiful world to introduce to your young child! What a beautiful world that can nourish the parched winter of your soul!

Suddenly a new burst of energy! Spring Cleaning Time! Washing windows, getting out the summer clothes, passing along those that no longer fit, vacuuming the dusty cobwebs from the ceiling, maybe even delving into a drawer or two. Then when you can no longer stay inside, it is outside into the world again. This time maybe even to begin to reclaim the earth around you. Perhaps raking away the leaves, planting some pansies, preparing a garden bed. These are all activities in which you can involve your young child. They too will take delight in digging in the earth, raking the leaves and exclaiming at the tiny green shoots popping up, listening to the songs of birds as they sing forth the flowers.

The young child learns by imitation, and they want to do what we do. Invite them to join you in the outside work. They also want to use tools that are like yours. Small imitation tools — often plastic and breakable — are just not satisfying and usually they don’t work. (The exception is small plastic leaf rakes, which work quite well.) Offer your child real tools that are actually effective in taking on the task at hand. Most come in small sizes or you can improvise — cut off handles or give them a long-handled trowel instead of a spade, for example. These tools last and can be passed along. And remember to enjoy what you are doing! Your child will drink in your inner mood as well as how carefully you treat the tiny seedlings! Sing while you work!

If it is at all possible, start some seeds with them — something they can later transplant outside or direct sow. If no outside garden space is available, try parsley or basil, which you can keep on a window sill. If this all seems too much as parents of young children, perhaps a neighbor or grandparent loves to garden.

Just remember parents of young children are very busy and you don’t have to do it all. Be gentle and patient with yourself. Whatever experiences of new growth, new beginnings you are able to provide will not only nourish your child in the moment but for their whole life.

Into the forest let us walk,
and see what wonders
Lady Spring has brought.
Here’s a flower
and there’s a bee
and birds are singing
in every tree.

As you delve into nature with your young child, remember they don’t have the same awareness that you as an adult have. You don’t need to explain the miracle of photosynthesis to your young child. They still live very deeply in imaginative pictures. You can say "Look, the sun fairies and the rain fairies came yesterday and fed the tiny shoots. Look how big they are today." Or just say, "Look how beautiful!" Or just silently pause and wonder at the magic of it all.

toddler sitting in grass sniffing daffodils

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