Gardening with Children (How to Get Kids Interested in Gardening)
Gardening is such an amazing hobby and it just keeps giving in so many ways – it feeds us, it feeds lots of other things in our environment, it cleans the air, etc. etc. Most of all, it’s lots of fun and very rewarding! I will assume that if you are taking the time to stop by, you love gardening too and want to pass that love on to the children in your life.
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Follow along and let’s introduce your kids to gardening- a hobby that could last their entire lives. Gardening teaches responsibility and can help to build a child’s confidence. Plus there are so many other benefits to gardening besides enhancing your child’s development. Benefits like getting fresh air, developing a taste for healthy food, introducing them to new foods, getting physical activity, learning new skills and so much more.
If you’ve ever happened upon Gingham Gardens’ About page, you may remember that I was raised in a large family and our Dad was an avid gardener. We grew mostly vegetables to feed our large family, the neighbors, extended family members, church friends and anyone that needed fresh produce. Although most of us really didn’t like getting up “at the crack of dawn”, “in the cool of the day” to pull weeds and tend to the garden, most of us have grown gardens ourselves and some of us are avid gardeners just like our dad was. Just saying all of that to say, seeds that are planted and nurtured will grow.
How to Get Children Interested in Gardening
The best time to introduce children to gardening is at an early age. If possible, use a baby carrier and garden with infants in tow. When they begin eating solid foods, feed your baby pureed vegetables from your garden. As your child grows you can gradually introduce them to other aspects of gardening.
For young children, like toddlers and preschool aged children, let them dig in the dirt. Play games with them in the garden like digging for worms. Small children love to help with chores like watering. Let them get dirty! Use your imagination and let them use theirs. Make these games a time for learning by explaining why worms are good in the garden, or why we need to water our plants. Also feed toddlers and preschoolers from the garden.
For older children, use the garden as a learning experience. Involve your big kids in new family gardening project, like adding new garden beds, or really anything that has to do with your outdoor space. We’ll talk more about letting children have their own space in the garden below.
Get the super fun
Kid’s Garden Activity Book
Gardening with Kids – Ways to Make it Fun
Children are all different – some will like gardening and some will not. Being creative and learning how to make gardening fun will go a long way to develop a lifelong love for gardening in your kids. Here are some ideas to get those creative juices going:
Playing games in the garden is a great way to make gardening fun. Even games that have nothing to do with gardening, like hide and seek. Or, make up a hopscotch type of game on stepping stones. Many times playing in the garden will just come natural to children. Don’t be to picky. Most vegetables and flowers will be okay with a little stepping on.
My grandsons and I play a simple game with gardening stakes. They each have a gardening stake assigned to them – one has a cute ladybug, and one has a bee. They will hide the stakes somewhere in my gardens. I have to find them and re-hide them for the next time they come over. Finding the garden stakes and re-hiding them is the first thing they do when they visit in the summer. I’m not really teaching them anything with this little game, but they do learn that we can have fun in the gardens. And, I’m hoping to have at least one young gardener.
Another thing we like to do is to play scavenger hunts in the gardens. You can make this as easy or as hard as you want to depending on the age of your children. Our grandboys are pretty good at finding sunflowers, tomato plants and cucumbers, but have a little harder time finding root crops like carrots and radishes.
Make up a sensory game by blindfolding your child and have them guess the plant or flower by smell and touch, or even taste in the case of vegetables. Many plants have a very distinctive smell. Some plants to try are tomatoes, marigolds, mint or any herbs.
Another great idea is to make up a game using seeds. Have children sort large seeds and tiny seeds. Or even do a matching game with seed packets.
Provide children with their own gardening tools and equipment. Stay away from cheap plastic because it simply won’t last and will end up being a waste of money.
More fun things for kids to do in the garden:
- Have kids look for worms, bees, butterflies and bugs in your garden.
- Let kids pick flowers for bouquets.
- If they want to, let them eat veggies and fruits right out of the garden. Another reason to garden organically.
Let Kids Have Their Own Gardening Space
If you have limited space for gardening, many vegetables and flowers can be grown in a large container, or use a couple of large containers and let your kids grow a container garden. Another idea is to consider renting a space in community gardens.
Give them gardening chores. As kids learn to plant and tend a garden, their confidence will grow. Have kids plan out their garden plot and choose what they will plant. If you’re in a gardening zone where the growing season is short, let the kids select the plants they want from the nursery. Otherwise growing plants from seeds is a fun learning activity. They will enjoy the fruits of their labor so much more if they are included in every step.
Check out the post Growing Vegetables in Pots for more ideas.
Easy Plants for Children to Grow
I like to let kids choose their own plants to grow, but if you’re limited on space, you might want to steer them to different plants. For instance, some tomato plants can grow quite large. Here are a few suggestions of easy to grow flowers and veggies.
- Sunflowers – grow very quickly from seed, so they are a good choice to plant from seeds. Please keep in mind that sunflowers sap a lot of nutrients from the soil, so they aren’t a good choice to plant alongside other plants.
- Zinnias – perfect flowers for bouquets. Zinnias are easy to grow from seeds, or you can find plants in more nurseries. Butterflies and bees also love zinnias.
- Marigolds – another good choice to plant from seed, or plants. Also a good choice to include with vegetables.
- Snapdragons – really fun flowers that can actually be played with. Snapdragons are very slow growing from seed, so I suggest purchasing plants from your local garden center.
Vegetables and Fruits:
- Watermelon or canteloupe – fun to plant and eat, but they do take up a lot of space. Melons grow fast from seed. They can be planted in large containers, but the vines will need space to wander.
- Pumpkins – really fun to plant for fall harvest, but they also take up lots of space. Like melons, they can be grown in large containers, but the vines need room to grow.
- Cherry tomatoes – I suggest buying plants at your local garden center.
- Sugar snap peas – grow fast from seed. Peas can be grown in containers, but they need a trellis structure to grow on. Peas are also cool weather crops. Sugar snap peas are one of those veggies that your kids will like to eat right off the vine.
- Carrots – another kid friendly vegetable, but slow to grow. This one requires patience.
This is just a simple list of the best plants for kids to grow to help get you started. There are many, many other plants that will interest kids and that they will love to eat. What do your kids like to eat? Are they picky eaters? Ask yourself these questions and then do your homework. For instance, if your child doesn’t like vegetables, figure out ways to incorporate veggies in the foods they do like. Can you say, zucchini bread!
Another fun way for kids to enjoy a vegetable garden is to plan one with a theme, like a pizza garden or a salsa garden. A few tomato plants and pepper plants will work.
Be sure to have your children help with all aspects of gardening; like planting, watering, weeding and harvest. With a little guidance from you, they can learn the complete growing process.
Fun Gardening Activities for Kids
- Build a fairy garden with your children. Let the kids decide if they want fairies or gnomes. I’ve even seen fairy gardens with little trucks and tractors.
- Building a sunflower house or vine teepee. Last summer we decided to build a vine teepee for our grandkids. The teepee part went really well. We just used these 7′ plastic coated metal stakes. We then strung heavy duty string around the stakes and planted a combination of morning glories and black-eyed Susan vines. For many reasons, the project was a bust, but we will definitely try it again and when we get it just right, I will add it to this post.
Get the super fun
Kid’s Garden Activity / Garden Journal Book
Rainy Day DIY Projects with Kids
There are so many fun, garden related craft or DIY projects you can do with children. We like doing these types of projects with our grandkids either in the winter, or on days when we can’t get outdoors.
- Paint a birdhouse, or a bird feeder. I just let the kids do whatever they want. Most of the time I can’t imagine any bird wanting to make it their home, but it looks cute hanging in the garden anyway. I recommend spraying anything painted for outdoors with a UV protectant spray.
- DIY Bee House. This would be a fun project for an older child and a good opportunity to explain the importance of bees to our environment.
- DIY Toad House. Gardening Know How has a good article on using toad houses in the garden.
- Make garden or plant markers by painting rocks or decorating popsicle sticks.
- Make these adorable fairy lights. There’s a dinosaur set for boys too.
- We bought this gardening game and our grand boys love to play it.
- Botanical Interests has a really cute DIY Seed Bomb idea that would be a hit with kids.
- Paint a flower pot. Amazon has some really cute flower pot paint kits. It’s hard to pick a favorite.
Why Garden with Children
We all know that gardening is not instant gratification, but involving your children in gardening will help to teach them that many of the best things in life take time to develop. Plus, gardening is the best way to teach children about our natural world and environment. The process of gardening and waiting are great lessons for children of all ages.
I trust you’re leaving today with some new insights on instilling a love of gardening in the children in your life and making it a magical experience for them. Remember to have fun and if you child doesn’t seem taken with gardening, it’s okay. You can always try again next season.
Do you garden with the children in your life, whether it’s your own children, your grandchildren, or nieces or nephews? If so, I’d really like to know your experience. Please leave a comment below that will become a permanent part of this post.
Our favorite picks for gardening gifts and tools for children:
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