In my other blog, http://ruthcampbellsmith.blogspot.com/, which is about my grandmother's diaries from 1925 - 1927, Grandma noted that her boys played outside a lot and she could hardly get them inside long enough to eat! Kids today don't go outside nearly as much as even we used to. Someone has even coined the term "nature deficit disorder" to describe a condition in which children lose their connection to the great outdoors. Here are my suggestions to get kids out of the house and into the garden.
1. Scratch up a patch of ground and sow some flower seeds. Easy varieties include the obvious zinnias, marigolds, and sunflowers. Don't try anything exotic, go with tried and true, so the kids have some success. Help the kids water and weed as needed and then enjoy the flowers.
2. Plant some cherry tomatoes, or any tomatoes. Watch them grow and water as need. When the first tomatoes ripen, help the kids pick them, and eat them like an apple while still in the garden. If you see a few tomato horn worms later in the summer, show the kids and have them try to find more. It can be tougher than you think to find these big fat caterpillers, which are the same color as the tomatoe vine. (You will want to pick the horn worms off the plants and squash them!)
3. Plant any vegetables... beans, corn, etc. and show the kids where vegetables come from
4. On a hot summer day, turn on the sprinkler for the kids to run through, barefoot in the grass! You'll be watering the lawn at the same time and it feels less wasteful if the kids are enjoying it, too.
5. Find a big patch of clover, and help the kids find 4 leaf clovers. Make flower chains out of the clover flowers (I know you remember how to do this.)
6. Go walking in the woods in the spring-time, looking for morel mushrooms. Kids will find a whole lot of other things in the woods including wild flowers. (Don't pick the wild flowers! Leave them be!)
7. In the fall, rake a big pile of leaves and get the kids to play in them.
8. Take the kids to a garden center in the spring and let them help pick out flowers and then plant them. Instant beauty.
9. Start a leaf collection. Help the kids to learn how to identify the trees in your yard and neighborhood.
10. Put the kids in charge of a bird feeder. Help them identify the different birds that visit.
There's my list. Not too fancy, not too time consuming, not too expensive!