that open-ended quality lends itself to joyously creative play that helps children develop a relationship with the natural world,” she says.

Top Tools for Kids Small children notice things close to the ground, which become even more interest- ing when seen through a magnifying glass. Sturdy kids’ versions in bright colors are easy to fi nd if they get misplaced outdoors. Curious children love getting a close-

up look at worms and other critters in the worm bin or compost pile, or the struc- tures inside fl owers. “But when we just let the children explore, they’ll fi nd loads of intriguing objects we may never have thought of, like water caught on the fuzzy underside of a leaf, a sparkly rock or rough tree bark,” Cohen says. Children love to water plants, especially

during hot summer weather. Small watering cans that hold only a little water are easy for kids to handle and limit overdoing it. Water- fi lled spray bottles also encourage explora- tion while keeping kids cool. Digging to discover what’s under-

ground comes naturally to kids, and preschoolers do best with toy-size tools with short handles. Older kids can control child-size spades and rakes better than heavier adult tools.

Keeping Outdoor Space Safe Remove the worry from gardening with kids by minimizing safety risks. Replace poisonous or prickly plants with vegeta- bles, herbs or edible fl owers and teach kids of all ages not to eat plants unless they have fi rst been checked by an adult. Insects can be both interesting and

threatening, and fl ying insects oſt en are at- tracted to bright colors. Dress kids in light, neutral colors to avoid unwanted attention from bugs. Avoid chemical fertilizers and sprays, and opt for organic solutions.

Barbara Pleasant has authored many green- thumb books including Homegrown Pantry: Selecting the Best Varieties and Planting the Perfect Amounts for What You Want to Eat Year-Round. She grows vegetables, herbs and fruits in Floyd, VA; connect at

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