On the first beautiful days of summer, I feel a burst of ambition accompanied by an amount of energy that I wish would last the entire year. I’m one of those people who enjoy working in the yard while my kids play outside. What I’ve learned though, is my kids would rather help with the projects instead of play. With that in mind, when I look for tasks to sink into, I try to find ones that my children can help out with.
Make Something Old Into Something New
At my house, we have a patio that was once surrounded by bushes and trees. Last summer I transplanted the bushes and trees to other parts of my yard so that I would have an unobstructed view of my kids while sitting on the patio. In our haste, my husband and I opted to fill the area around the patio with mulch—that was a mistake. Now I have pieces of wood mulch getting tracked throughout my house, and I’m always worried the kids will get a splinter in their feet (or worse).
This summer I’ve decided to fix the problem. Since moving into our home five years ago, we’ve done nothing with a stack of bricks the previous owners left behind. My husband and I decided to dig up the area around our patio so we could place the bricks in a nice pattern—making the patio seem larger, and cutting down on the dirt caused by the mulch. We’re also giving new life to the old bricks. Since my kids like to help, I tasked them with cleaning the bricks. They’ve also been helping me dig up the dirt, because what kid doesn’t love digging in the dirt? This will certainly be a project that stretches several weeks.
There are a couple things that I love about reusing the bricks that were in our yard doing nothing. First of all, we contemplated going to the store any buying large patio pavers, but that would have cost us more than we wanted to spend, so the bricks saved us money. In addition, we cleared space in the back of our yard where the bricks were piled up, and certainly within a few years would pique the interest of at least one of my children, most likely leading to some type of energy. Reusing something we already have is really better for the environment. We aren’t creating unnecessary waste. Finally, by using those bricks, we taught our kids by example, that using something you already have is a great option.
My children love to help me with our vegetable garden. I try to involve them in every step—from choosing which vegetables we will grow, all the way through harvest. This year, my son was especially helpful when it came to hauling our garden soil across the yard—he used his jeep to drive the (extremely) heavy bags across the yard to where our garden is located. When it came to growing our vegetables, this year we chose to grow them from seeds—some we began inside the house as early as February and others we planted directly in the garden early in May. While each seed packet offers recommendations for how far apart to plant the seeds, we don’t necessarily follow those guidelines. When children are dumping the seeds into soil, seeds are often clumped together, as well as scattered throughout. A couple years ago this would have made me insane, now I just figure it will be a surprise to see what grows where.
Once our seeds were planted, my kids were excited to help water the garden. I would recommend putting your kids in bathing suits for this step. Whenever my children water our garden, they end up drenched! I think that’s part of the fun, though. With our garden only a couple weeks old, we’re already starting to see several plants making their way out of the ground—peas, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli and peppers. If you’re new to gardening, and aren’t sure how to tell when something you’re growing is ready to be picked, I find Savvy Gardener to be a helpful website.
Next time you’re looking at an outdoor project to tackle, try to think about ways to use items you already have, and ways to include your children. I find keeping kids involved in the projects keeps them outside longer (and what child doesn’t benefit from fresh air?) and it’s a great way to bond. My children are very proud of all of the projects they help me with. It gives them a sense of accomplishment and self-worth. Doing eco-friendly projects with your children sets a wonderful example that they will hopefully continue themselves and may one day pass on to their own children.