While you're outside getting things done around the house this summer, get your kids started with gardening early. Kids are very impressionable when it comes to deciding upon what is a valuable endeavor and what is lame. Make gardening seem cool. It gives them an excuse to get dirty and learn to plot, dig, and plant at the same time, and the amazement and respect for nature that follows from harvesting a fresh, florescent orange carrot cannot be replicated. Allow digging and getting dirty to progress into a lifetime passion with nature.
The earth is a pretty interesting place, especially for someone who hasn't seen it very much yet. Although it may require some clean up afterwards, you can turn a little bit of water and dirt into a mud-making experiment in solubility, which will retain interest for quite some time. Just give them a small cup of water and a cup of dirt and let them explore. For the slightly older kid, you can take a trip to your local supermarket or seed supplier and let them choose the contents of their own garden. This gives them control over their own project. They will become excited about the prospect of growing their own food, and it may even lead to more vegetable consumption. Maybe. Give them their own garden or a section of a garden so that they can water, fertilize, and track its progress independently. This is an ongoing involvement and will take a little discipline to remember to check the garden on a regular basis, but if you hype up the miracle of the end product, it should be looked forward to.
When you start the garden, allow your kid to help with plotting the space, and let him or her do all the weeding. The sensation of pulling weeds from the earth is an interesting one, and can occupy a child for a long time. If they are in the sun, make sure they are hydrated and wearing sunscreen.
If your child is absolutely not inclined to garden, you can create a play area with rubber mulch, a recycled substance, to give your kids a fun and safe area in which to play. First, demarcate and clear an area of your choosing. Remove any debris, sticks, stones, or brush. Dig a small trench around the border of the area you've chosen, and install bender board along the trench line. Plant small plants or shrubs in the trench so that the play area is clearly marked. Here is where you can sneak some gardening in and have your child help with the digging. Lay landscape fabric down over the play area to prevent weed growth. Spread the rubber mulch, which can be found in various colors, about three inches thick and you have a nice, safe play area to keep your kids busy and outside in the beautiful summer weather.