As an adult and a parent, yard work may seem like little more than a thankless chore to get through before you can kick back, relax, and enjoy the fruits of your labor with your family. But to kids, working in the yard can still be imbued with fun and adventure. Plus, teaching your kids to complete yard and gardening chores helps them learn responsibility, builds their confidence and sense of self-efficacy, and teaches them valuable skills they’ll one day use as adults.
While your four-year-old obviously isn’t ready to tool around on the riding mower, no child is too young to help with yard work. All you have to do is make yard work interesting and fun for your kids, and make sure to assign age-appropriate tasks.
Your Lawn Is a Classroom
Getting kids involved in lawn and garden chores is a great learning experience for them. Whether you’re mowing your lawn, planting flower bulbs, or weeding a vegetable patch, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to teach your kids about nature, botany, homeownership, and growing a beautiful flower garden, lush lawn, or nourishing vegetable patch.
Get your kids interested in every step of the gardening process by explaining, as you plant seeds, seedlings, and bulbs, how plants work and why they need care and attention to flourish. Teach your kids about how plants make flowers to attract pollinators like bees and butterflies, and how those animals help plants to make the fruits and vegetables we eat and ultimately, to reproduce. Take time to examine the earthworms and insects that emerge from the soil when you dig to plant seedlings or seeds, and talk about how those animals enrich the soil and provide nutrients plants need. Explain to your kids how lawn aeration helps your grass grow, or how tilling the soil makes it easier to grow vegetables, fruits, and flowers. By educating your children about gardening, lawn care, and nature, you’ll be feeding their natural curiosity, and fostering a desire to get involved.
Make Yard Work a Game
No one likes to spend hours working in the lawn, and your kids are likely to get bored, tired, and frustrated if asked to work for too long of a stretch. Make yard work a game – let your kids turn on the sprinkler and then play in the spray for a while, or encourage them to have a hole-digging or seed-planting contest. Ask your son or daughter to rake the autumn leaves, but make sure you also encourage him or her to play in those leaves for a while afterward.
Another way to make yard work fun, and more palatable for everyone, is to break it up into 15-minute intervals. Give each of your kids a chore, ask them to work on it for 15 minutes, and then take a 15-minute play break together. This way, you’ll get to have fun outside as a family and no one will get too burnt out by working too hard for too long.
Assign Age-Appropriate Chores
Kids of all ages, from toddlers to late teens, can help in the yard and garden, as long as you assign age-appropriate chores. The youngest kids can pull weeds, pick up twigs and sticks, water plants, or dig holes. Preschoolers 3 to 5 years old can help you with more complex chores like starting new seeds or seedlings, potting plants, and deep-watering soil. School-aged children can help with planting and transplanting plants and bulbs, fertilizing plants, harvesting plants and vegetables, raking leaves, aerating the lawn, and even planning flower beds and vegetable patches. Pre-teens can rake and bag leaves, spread mulch or straw, and tend to a compost pile.
Kids aged 13 and up may be old and strong enough to do most of the yard work chores an adult can do, such as mowing the lawn, weed-whacking, helping to build water features, blowing leaves, and pruning bushes or trees. At this age, kids may want to start using the lawn and garden skills they’ve been working on all their lives to earn a little extra money around the neighborhood.
Need a hand in the yard? Even the littlest kids can have fun, and learn valuable lessons, by helping in the yard. Make yard work a family affair, and reap the rewards of a well-tended lawn and garden together.