Getting children involved in homesteading

Getting children involved in your homesteading activities can be a wonderful learning activity for them as well as you.  However there are so many distractions that take children away from wanting to be involved in growing, raising and nurturing the land.  Computers, TV, games, smart phones, music…all of which I love and enjoy as well…should not totally replace the joy of growing a vegetable or picking a wild berry or just walking through and enjoying nature.

For those who have raised their children on a farm or homestead this may not be an issue.  You may have your children already deeply involved and enjoying all the wonders homesteading has to offer.   For those folks just starting off homesteading with your children, maybe its a new experience that you will need to coax your children into enjoying and break them away from those electronic distractions (at least for some time each week).

So I have set myself a set of goals.  When my children finally fly from the nest I hope they can (at least):

  • Grow simple vegetables
  • Care for and raise animals
  • Cook simple meals
  • Use equipment (including hand and power tools…and large farm equipment like a tractor)
  • Fix, recycle and reuse materials (rather than throw away and re-buy)
  • Appreciate where food comes from..and how precious our Earth really is!

P.S. For those with grown up children who think you are totally crazy….I am sorry!  Maybe you can help their kids to understand the importance of homesteading and break the cycle 

Getting children involved in homesteading

So here is some ideas of how you can get your kids (or grandkids) more involved in your homesteading activities:

1. Make it interesting – a good ploy is to start children off doing things that are simple, but interesting. Planting seeds, raising chicks, picking fruit and harvesting vegetables – have them involved in these homesteading successes.  The secret here is to be there and encouraging them when they are young…then trusting them as they get older to do things themselves.  Get older children involved in 4H or similar activities where they can learn about new animals and become the experts.  Then let them teach you!

2. Make it scientific – using your homesteading tasks to learn about science is an awesome way to get some children involved.   This could be as simple as having them collect the eggs each day and record the number in your homestead book or on a circular calendar.  Have them measure rainfall/snowfall.  Plant seeds with them and have them record sprouting and harvest dates.   Have them test the soil using a simple soil testing kit, …the options are endless.  BUT call it SCIENCE…and capture them by having them involved in homestead activities where they are the data collectors.

3. Make them the photographer – if you have a child who is artistic, make them the official photographer.  Have them record the homestead life as you live it.  It’s another way to have them appreciate the life you have chosen through the eye of the lens.

4. Make them the journalists – if you have have a child who loves to write, get them to start a homestead journal and record details about your homestead life.  For older children, start up a free blog using blogspot or wordpress and have them record the process electronically.  Have them use the social media world to promote your homestead products.

5. Hold growing competitions – set up areas for children to grow their own plants and have them work on their own gardens as well as your main beds.   They can choose the plants to grow and learn about overcrowding, watering and more.  Once they are doing well, then have them enter produce in the town/county/state fair.

6. Teach them to use equipment  – start with simple hand tools and work your way up.  Our seven year old drives the tractor like a pro (but is not allowed to use PTO equipment as yet).  Our neighbors who run an organic farm have their 5 year olds happily planting from their tractor.

7. Teach them how to cook and preserve food – have your children help with canning and other cooking work.   Let them watch you make jam, can vegetables and store grains.   Let them see where food comes from, how to store it and how to cook good, wholesome meals.  Let them get involved. Make bread with them – nothing is more hands on than kneading dough!

8. Use the profit motive – nothing gets things done better than the carrot of earning a few dollars.   Whether you just have an ‘allowance’ based on doing chores, or you allow your children to sell their farm products (eggs they collect, vegetables they raise, animals they sell etc) we find our kids respond.  We have ‘kid dollars’ at our place – basically its board game money which we use as currency that they can trade in for an item at a store (the current exchange rate is one kid dollar = $US 1).   Kid dollars are earned for doing chores as well as bonuses for doing a great job at other things (like being responsible, doing good deeds etc).

Share some ideas below…I am sure there are plenty more ideas on how to get the younger generation involved.