Pagan Parenting: Creating Magical Garden Nooks

A cement unicorn statue surrounded by hyacinths in our new “play garden.” Photo by M. A. Phillips

When asked what drew one to Druidry (or other kinds of Paganism), many are quick to answer that it had something to do with a love of Nature. For many of us, this stems from a background in gardening, and those of us who became gardeners as adults were exposed to it as children.

I recently watched an episode of Gardeners’ World in which the host, Monty Don, described how he helped with his parents’ garden as a child. Now a celebrity gardener, he admits that it felt more like a chore back then. Though I enjoyed the idea of having a mini veggie patch as a child myself, I wasn’t very good about the work involved, and I didn’t become engaged with the challenge and joy of it all until I was an older teenager. It was around this time when I began studying folk magic and realized how gardening could become part of that process. I’ve found this to be true with many of my polytheist and witch friends who also garden or have house plants: the love (and perhaps obsession) with the plant world didn’t come until adulthood.

As a parent, it’s important to me that I expose my daughter to the everyday magic of working with the land. Some of it will always come across as a chore–watering plants is a simple and necessary way to promote time outside to learn and begin forming a relationship with the green world.

While I accept that a deep passion may not come until later (if it comes at all), I want to make the process as fun and whimsical as possible. My husband and I decided to set aside the ground around my daughter’s swing set as her “play garden.” Bee is enthusiastic to collaborate, and that ownership is important for her motivation and development as a lifelong learner. She gets to choose the decorations and plants, but she understands her parents have veto power. Of course, we would explain our reasoning, whether a plant is poisonous, thorny, invasive, or not suited to our zone. So far, the only plant we had to strongly discourage was a peony, and only because I showed her how large they would become, and how it would limit her options. In the end, it was her choice. So far she selected tulips and hyacinths. Later, we’ll plant marigolds since they look like fire flowers from Mario.

In addition to adding plants, we are going to make some stepping stones so that it’s easy for her to access and care for her new green friends. Their practical nature is secondary to her; Bee is excited to hop from stone to stone!

As spring blossoms all around, take some time to consider adding a play garden to your own space for the little ones in your life. For some, this could be a living, outdoor Waldorf-inspired nature table that shifts with the seasons. It could be the beginnings of a child’s own altar area and a place to make offerings to the land spirits with guidance from a trusted adult. Or it could be an observation area for the budding scientist. Maybe it can be all three! You can make it as large as a bed that wraps around a play area or as small as a single pot on the windowsill, balcony, or patio.

Whatever the case, the end goal is not to push Druidry on your child (though I certainly raise my daughter in my tradition). Rather, the goal is to share a deep respect and understanding for the natural world with your child. Whoever they grow into as an adult, the hope is such care will guide them as they make personal and civic choices.

Published by M. A. Phillips

An author and Druid living in Northern NY.

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