I have fond memories of making things with my dad. He is very handy and made a point of working on projects with me from a young age. I can still clearly remember making Adirondack chairs for our backyard and learning how to safely use the table saw that was set up in our garage when I was six or seven. To this day, I have a healthy fear of table saws.
But going beyond the lessons in tool safety, I look back on this time together, which I still treasure, and know that he also taught me amazing skills that serve me well even now. (I was the only one of my college friends who knew how to put all the DIY furniture together and had my own tool kit.)
So, for those handy dads (or moms) and even those not that handy, why not create a small garden or planter box with your nine-to-twelve-year-old child.
- Pick a space in your yard, on your balcony, or a window in the house where you can place a planter box. How large or small you want it to be is up to you.
- Decide if you’re going to make the planter box or buy a ready-made one at your local hardware or garden store.
a. If you’re going to make one, decide with your child what supplies you’ll need.
b. If you’re going to buy one, have your child help you measure the space you’ll be putting it so you can get a box with the correct dimensions.
- Decide what type of plants you want to put in your small garden. Does your family cook a lot? Maybe a small herb garden would add even more flare to your meals. Or maybe some fragrant flowers can bring a bit more cheer to your house or yard. Maybe each person in your family can choose a plant and it can be a combination. It’s up to you!
- Have your child write down what you decide and then head to the store to buy everything. Don’t forget extra planting soil. Let your child lead the shopping trip, making sure to get everything on the list.
- When you get home, make your box with your child if you’re making it (having them measure the wood and help cut and nail it together) or set up your premade box and then start planting.
- When you’re done planting everything, clean up and water your new garden.
- Enjoy your piece of nature!
Activity – Bonus!
Bonding Over Nature
To take it one step further, find a park or natural area near you and go exploring together. Get outside and see what native plants and non-native plants are there. If you’re not sure what ones are native, stop by a local bookstore or your library and get a book of local plants and animals/birds/insects.
- Look through the book together, before you head out onto the trail or to the park, so you can recognize common plants, birds, animals, and/or insects.
- Decide how long your adventure is going to last and pack accordingly. Don’t forget water, snacks, sunscreen, binoculars (if you have them), paper and pencil (to write down the things you’ll see), a hat, the book you picked up to identify the things you’ll see, and anything else you might want.
- Let other family members know where you’ll be going and when you’ll be back and then head out with your child for some bonding time.
- While you’re out in nature, see if you can spot anything you read about in the book. Do you see any of the plants you picked for your own garden? Stop and take a moment to draw one of these things. Compare your pictures. Take your time and enjoy your surroundings. You can stay as long or as little as you like and go as far or as little as you like. This is your trip, so it’s up to you and your child.
- Take pictures of your favorite spots or things.
- Start a nature list and write down the date, place you’re at, and the things you see. If you’re not sure of something, look it up or write down a description (or take a picture, if you can) so you can research it some more when you get home. Are the things you’re noting there year-round or seasonally?
- Make sure to rest, hydrate, and refuel as needed.
- When you’re headed home, ask your child what they enjoyed the most. What did they enjoy the least? Let them know what you enjoyed the most and the least as well. Depending on how it went, maybe this outing can become a regular thing. Either way, it’s time well spent because you spent it together.
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Carolyn is a writer, proofreader, and editor. She has a background in wildlife management but pivoted to writing and editing when she became a mother. In her "free time" she is a 3rd Dan (degree) Kukkiwon certified black belt in Taekwondo, loves learning to craft from her enormously talented children, and then teaching what she's learned to her enormously talented grandmother. Read full bio >>