How We Built a Raised Bed Children’s Garden

How We Built a Raised Bed Children's Garden for Our Young Kids. Want your kids to have somewhere to dig and plant flowers? Here's how we build a raised bed to accommodate them. (Photo: Boy with a giant shovel digging in a large wooden box.)

As a child, I’d spend hours in my backyard poking around in the dirt. I’d pretend specific plants were magical and “mix” up concoctions. I could be alone with my imagination, whether under the giant pine tree or next to my mom’s garden bed.

But our yard doesn’t offer the same experience for our kids. It’s on a corner heavy with foot traffic and no clear place for them to play in the dirt. So I wanted to make them one – somewhere that was set-aside, just for them. After more than a year of planning – raising a new baby took a higher priority – we finally started building it this spring.

The children’s garden isn’t anything complicated. While there are some amazing outdoor play spaces on Pinterest, we had neither the space or need for anything that elaborate. We just wanted to build something that could hold some dirt. It’s really just a box. Or in fancy garden terms, a raised bed children’s garden.

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Camping with Two Kids in Cunningham Falls State Park: The Good, the Not-So-Bad, and the Lessons Learned

"Camping with Two Kids at Cunningham Falls State Park: The Good, The Not-So-Bad, and the Lessons Learned" Thinking about camping with two kids? Here's what we enjoyed and what we'd do differently next time. (Photo: Orange, white and green tent on a packed dirt campsite in front of trees with a toy truck.)

Feeling the thump thump thump of kicking feet against my back and the cries of the baby who did not want to be in the car any longer, I thought, “What the hell was I thinking trying to go camping with two kids?” We were still 45 minutes from our site and things were already going very badly. Fortunately, a couple of potty breaks and some whining later, I realized that the camping trip this past weekend turned out a hell of a lot better than I expected it. In fact, it was easily our best camping trip so far.

It had been almost two years since we had gone camping with Sprout. It was the first time we went camping with two kids. Even though the times with Sprout were chaotic, from clueless packing to partying college students, I still wanted to go. There’s a genuine magic that makes all of the other nonsense worthwhile.

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The Truth about Gardening with Kids

The Truth about Gardening with Kids - yes, all of these things will happen! (Photo: Pepper plant in garden surrounded by straw)

“Nononono,” I cry, sprinting over to Little Bird. He looks up, one dirty, guilty hand still at his mouth. His lips are lined with bits of dark brown. I looked down for just a moment to plant a pepper seedling. In that short period, he crawled over to the garden fence, stuck his hand in, and shoved a chunk of dirt right in his face. I sigh, wipe him off with the back of my hand, and rest him on my hip. Gardening with kids isn’t for the faint of heart. If you garden with young kids, all of these things will happen at some point:

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Guest Post: 7 Ways to Engage Young Children in Gardening

Lasagna gardening in process

It’s spring! Along with a lot of rain and a lot of tourists here in D.C., it’s also gardening season. We’ve sowed seeds, sprouted plants, and had a baby eating mulch. While not exactly always on task, my kids do love the idea of gardening. How do I get them excited about it?

I recently wrote how I’ve involved them over at Happy Science Mom in the post 7 Clever Ways to Get Kids Excited about Gardening.

Here’s the first paragraph of the article:

“Messing around in the dirt is a classic childhood activity. Gardening is just messing around in the dirt with a purpose. Growing fruits and vegetables together can actually be one of the most fun and engaging activities that you do with your kids. In addition to the general benefits of being outside, gardening connects kids with their food, provides them with a sense of accomplishment, and is a great way to teach a variety of important skills. In my own life, I have seen my son get so excited about the cherry tomatoes in our garden that he eats them right off the plants!”

Read the rest over at Happy Science Mom!

Guest Post: Spring into STEM!

Cleaning out the garden with Sprout

Gardening is all about science, from the life cycle of a plant to the nitrogen cycle of the soil. I combined both of those loves in a guest post for Raising Nerd about using gardening to teach your mini-nerds about science, engineering and math. It’s heavy on the ecology, but touches on a bunch of areas.

Here’s a preview:

Dirt covered the table. Dirt covered my son’s hair. Dirt covered everything. While I wanted to be annoyed, I really wasn’t. It was all in the name of learning – and growing food in our new garden.

While trowels and compost may not seem like obvious tools for teaching science, vegetable gardens can be incredible classrooms. That day, my son was learning about the life cycle of plants while we started tomato seeds.

The best part is that gardening provides the potential for kids of all ages to learn. While my three-year-old is just beginning to learn the basics, even I’ve learned quite a bit in my years of gardening. If you don’t garden yet, consider planting a few flowerpots so you can share the benefits with your kids.

Read the rest at Raising Nerd!

Green Kids: Building a Lasagna Garden

green-kids_-building-a-lasagna-garden

Most people aren’t thinking about prepping their garden at Thanksgiving. But due to a delay known as “having small children,” that’s what we were doing on Sunday, prepping the layers of our inedible lasagna garden. Lasagna gardening, also called sheet mulching or sheet composting, is a permaculture method of gardening that’s easy, cheap, and fun to do with kids.

Lasagna gardening mimics the natural process of leaf litter and other organic matter building up on the forest floor. In the forest, the dead leaves and other plants slowly accumulate and then decompose into soil. Lasagna gardening speeds up this process. Because the organic matter you layer is largely cheap or free, you save quite a bit of money. This technique also doesn’t leave any disturbed soil for weeds to root in. Even though it takes some serious prep time in the fall, it makes for a nearly maintenance-free garden in the spring and summer.

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A Holiday Gift Guide for Outdoor Families

Text: "Holiday Gift Guide for Outdoor Families, We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So" Photos of a plastic watering can for children, a board book called Hello, National Parks, a rain jacket, and a blue headlamp.
Getting kids outside has a whole host of benefits, from stronger immune systems to the sheer joy of play. While sometimes all that’s needed is a stick and a bit of imagination, having certain gear can help bringing kids outside easier, safer and more fun. Whether you’re in the mountains or your own backyard, this gift guide – which is mainly focused on kids in preschool and elementary school – should provide a few helpful suggestions. (Note – none of these are affiliate or sponsored links, just products and/or companies I personally like.)

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Science Adventures: Feathers

Photo: Black feather on multi-colored gravel. Text: "Science Adventures: Feathers; We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So"

This post explores the biology and ecology of feathers. It’s part of a series I’m doing on using everyday situations to help young kids explore science – particularly ecology and biology – more in depth. 

The opportunity:
With birds winging their way south for the winter, it’s the perfect time to investigate their most unique trait: feathers. Find a feather on the ground to examine it!

The scientific context:
While feathers are unique to birds these days, they’ve been around for far longer. Unlike when I was a kid, scientists now think that many dinosaurs had feathers as well. Although they didn’t fly, dinosaurs’ feathers probably served many of the same purposes bird feathers do today.

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