Young children love to help- in the kitchen, with the laundry, cleaning and dusting. There is virtually no household chore that my son hasn’t shown an interest in helping with (although he is much more helpful with some than with others). Whenever possible, I try to involve him with household tasks to help satiate his curiosity, teach him how to do said tasks so he can complete them on his own in the future, and to instill a sense of responsibility into him.
Kids’ helpful nature doesn’t end at the front door. There are many outside tasks in which a toddler or young child can participate that teach firsthand knowledge of important natural processes. My favorite of these tasks is gardening.
While vegetable gardening is rewarding for a young child (you get to eat what you grow!), most children are naturally attracted to the beauty of flowers and love to plant and pick them. Planting a wildflower garden with a child is an excellent way to bring beauty to your yard while teaching the concepts of plant growth and care and about the importance of natural pollinators, such as bees.
It is no secret that bees are endangered. With one out of every three bites of food coming from plants pollinated by bees and over 50 percent of the produce section relying on them, it could be said that saving the bees is one of the most important environmental issues of our time.
So what can the home gardener, or a child, do to help reverse the alarming trend of bee deaths? Create a bee-friendly habitat in your yard or in another public place where you garden. It is as simple as the age old cycle of dirt, seeds, water, and sun; something even the youngest toddler can be involved in and be proud of.
How to Plant a Bee Friendly Garden
- Bees love sun, so try to find a spot that is sunny for most of the day and is sheltered from strong winds.
- Use native plants whenever possible. There are many benefits to both gardener and bee when using native plants. They are easier to grow, as they are best suited for your soil and climate, and, therefore, can thrive with little attention (always a plus when you have small children around). Many native herbs and perennials can also be used for food and medicinal purposes, and they are four times more attractive to bees than exotic flowers.
- Be colorful! Bees have great color vision in order to help them find the flowers essential to their survival. Bees love flowers in all colors, but their favorite tend to be blue, purple, white, and yellow. Show your child seed packets or pictures of species you are considering and let him or her choose which ones to plant.
- Plant a variety of flowers that bloom throughout the growing season in order to provide pollen and nectar to bees throughout the spring, summer, and fall.
- Plant in clumps. Whenever possible, group flowers of the same type together. This attracts more bees than individual species spread throughout the garden. Clumps of four feet in diameter are ideal. When planting with a child, clusters of plants are ideal because they can simply stand in one place and scatter seeds on the ground rather than worrying about placing them in a carefully designated spot.
- Don’t use pesticides! This one should go without saying. Not only are you killing off beneficial bugs along with the pests, but pesticides are highly toxic to humans, as well (especially small ones).
Native Plants that Bees Love
Any flower planted is a boon to bees, but native flowers should be your first choice in helping native bees survive and thrive. The following is a non-exhaustive list of plant types that provide a good source of pollen and nectar for bees. These are not individual species, but plant genera that are generally found in some form or another across the United States. A local nursery or a wildflower guide can help you to find species specific to your local area.
- Black-eyed Susan
- Creosote bush
- Joe-pye weed
- Oregon grape
- Purple coneflower
- Red Clover
- Wild buckwheat
- Wild Rose
Whether your family fills your yard with wildflowers or simply plants a handful of flowers outside your back door, your experience will teach your children the importance of our most prolific pollinators, demonstrate how plants are grown, and will make your corner of the world a more beautiful place. Happy planting!
For more information about bee-friendly habitats, check out this handy guide from the USDA.
(NOTE: This was brought over from my other blog, Natural Living Mamma, which is being taken down shortly). As some of you may know we have brought on some AMAZING new bloggers to the Natural Living Mamma team. Erin, the author of this article, is the owner of the blog Natural Wonderer where she shares all about natural living, real food, sustainable farming, and a simplified life. Welcome to Erin and enjoy this great post!