Plant an Abstract Garden
6 Benefits of Gardening with Your Budding Artist
I was always looking for ways to incorporate art into my children's daily activities, but being artistically challenged required me to be a bit more creative in implementation. During one long spring in Vermont, I was inspired. I looked out the window at my brown, soon to be green, front lawn and saw a blank canvas and thought it would be an excellent opportunity to improve the view with a garden — a living work of art. Granted art is not my strong suit, but the idea of an abstract garden seemed a creative way around that. I was confident in the gardening bit, but the art was going to be a challenge for me. My children were the perfect partners to enlist in our project, and they were happy to help! To document our garden project that season we kept visual journals which I even tried myself, much to the entertainment of my children. I've included some of the benefits we experienced.
1. HMM! Planning a garden is an excellent way for children to think about what they want to accomplish in the future and delay gratification. To prepare, visit nurseries that carry all sorts of plants with your children and look at seed packets with beautiful pictures. Explore the colors, shapes, textures, and lines of the plants and talk about how they look next to each other. Encourage your children to include lots of variety, after all, they are choosing the palette with their garden as the canvas. Of course, you'll also need to pay attention to the planting zone to make sure the plants are right for your location. When your children feel ready to choose the plants they want in their garden get out the crayons and paper and have them draw their plan. It can be very motivating for your budding artists turned gardeners to visualize the garden.
2. PHEW! Time to roll up the sleeves and get out the shovel, hoe, or trowel. Planting and tending a garden is a great way to physically connect with nature all season long. Planting seeds or the plant itself is very exciting as it brings life to the garden visualization, although it may be hard to wait for the garden to grow. Once planted, there's still lots of work to be done. Watering the plants and pulling weeds is an excellent way to observe textures and take a really up-close view of the parts of plants. As a bonus, it's a great way to develop fine motor skills. It takes dedication to tend plants and children learn that their effort is reflected in the results.
3. YUM! Including some vegetables in a garden can be a yummy way to explore their colors, shapes, sizes, and textures. It's a great way to encourage even your pickiest eaters to try something new as parts of the garden make their way to the table. There's nothing like a juicy, red tomato or frilly, green lettuce that children have planted, tended, and harvested to entice your children to dive into a salad that looks like a work of art on a plate.
4. WOW! Seeing the life cycle of plants up close can inspire the naturalist in all of us. Use the opportunity to keep a visual journal to record the transformations of the plants during the season. Encourage your budding artists turned gardeners to fill their journals with artwork using thick and thin crisscrossing lines, swashes, swirls, swishes, globs, blobs — plus bright colors, and interesting texture. Reinforce that they are recording their interpretation of the garden and not the garden itself, which should take the pressure off any children who may feel artistically challenged. The purpose of the visual journal is for the children to enjoy the art process while enjoying the garden. At the end of the season, your budding artists turned gardeners can look at their visual journal and take pride in their accomplishment.
5. AHHH! Gardening is a great way to enjoy outdoor time, there's no need to rush or hurry. After all, a garden isn't accomplished in a day. Children can practice patience as they watch their plants grow and mature. Help your children recognize the changing shapes, sizes, and colors as the garden matures — encourage them to reflect those changes in their visual journal. There's nothing as sweet as the anticipation and observation of a flower as it blooms!
6. YAY! Join your budding artists turned gardeners in the garden project. It's a great way to spend time together. There are no screens to get in the way of connecting with each other. Your family can work together to accomplish a beautiful garden. Maybe create a visual journal of your own. This may sound daunting if you're as artistically challenged as I am, but it's a great way to model the behavior you are trying to encourage in your family.
Planning and planting an abstract garden provided my family with a season full of artistic adventures. As fall approached it was sad for all of us to think of our garden as a brown — soon to be white — canvas, but we realized spring would bring a new opportunity to plan another garden project to enjoy together.