Gardening With Your Kids: Tips, Tricks, and Benefits of Gardening With Children
Are you thinking of starting a garden with your children? Perhaps you are looking for an after school hobby, or something to do on the weekends? Gardening with children can be a great way to teach them how plants grow, and how to live a more sustainable life. Here's some great tips to help you get started gardening with your children right away!
If you love to garden, you might have thought about sharing your hobby with your children. Gardening is an excellent activity for kids. It has sensory aspects, gets them outside in the dirt, and can teach them life lessons and some important science.
But that’s not all it does. Gardening with your children can also boost their immune system, and teach them at an early age how to live a more sustainable lifestyle. There are many benefits, and few drawbacks, other than the work required.
In this article, you’ll learn more about gardening with kids. You’ll learn how it benefits them, how it benefits you, some tips to make it easier, and you’ll learn about our favorite plants for kids to learn with when it comes to refining their green thumb. Let’s jump in!
Benefits Of Gardening With Kids
Gardening with your children is more than just a fun activity. It’s a task that teaches important life lessons while doubling as a science experiment and lesson about how to grow your own food. Many parents also find that gardening with their kids helps them eat a healthier diet since they get to eat the food they grow! Here are some of the top benefits of gardening with your kids.
Gardening is a great way to teach your kids about responsibility. Tending to a plant’s needs is work. It requires them to stay dedicated and go out every day to feed, water, and weed the plant. Only with responsible care can the plant grow to its full potential.
Don’t be surprised if it takes your child some time to get into the groove of things and start looking at garden maintenance as a responsibility rather than a chore. There’s no need to push it if they’re uninterested but remember — the lesson might not stick until the end of the growing season when they get to see the fruits of their labor.
Learning about where our food comes from is essential to learning to respect the earth and its resources. Kids don’t always understand why it’s important not to waste food. But seeing how much work it takes to grow food will give them a new appreciation for why the earth’s resources are so necessary!
The way parents talk with their kids during these activities plays a vital role. As you work in the garden, talk about other food sources, who takes part in the production chain, and why food scarcity exists. These conversations can take place at an age-appropriate level.
Kids always have questions. Gardening is a great way to stimulate their curiosity and help them learn at the same time. You probably won’t need to bring it up on your own. A few minutes in a garden, and kids will start asking questions.
Feel free to let them guide the conversation. Take the opportunity to read together about anything you can’t answer. You might find yourself talking about anything from photosynthesis to worms, fertilizer, plant cycles, or even why composting is important. This will help them learn about botany, and perhaps even decide on botany or horticulture as a profession.
They’ll Learn About Sustainability
Gardening with your kids is an excellent opportunity to teach them about the life cycles of plants and how they relate to living sustainably. Start a compost bucket together and talk about how you can use it to feed your garden.
Collect rainwater and use it to water your plants. In the meantime, talk to your kids about the benefits of growing your own food or supporting local farmers. Feel free to relate this topic to other aspects of your life, such as picking up litter, recycling, and avoiding food and water waste.
It Teaches Them Patience
There is no denying that it can be hard to wait for plants to grow. But your kids will also enjoy seeing the progress of their plants from day to day and week to week.
It might be challenging initially, but the excitement will pick up when you start to see sprouts appear. Then they will be able to watch how the plants progress. Be sure to explain each step of the process and encourage them to keep watering and feeding their plant as needed.
If you feel like your kids might not have the patience for more difficult crops, choose a quick-growing one like radishes, onions, microgreens, lettuce, pumpkins, cherry tomatoes, snap peas, and certain flowers.
Most kids love to get dirty, and gardening is the perfect opportunity for that. But beyond the simple fun of getting dirt under your fingernails, playing in the garden can offer some good health benefits.
Theories suggest that exposing your child to dirt can bolster their immune system while reducing their risk of allergies and asthma. Though it’s no guarantee, it is a good reason to expose your kids to some dirt and sunshine outside.
Tips For Gardening With Kids
Want some ideas for how to make gardening with kids a success? Here are our top tips for starting the process.
Depending on their age, your child may not have the capacity for big projects. They still have short attention spans and can’t yet follow the concept of long-term work and rewards. In other words, don’t start with too big of a project!
Start with small projects that they can follow and enjoy. If you prefer, you can begin with plants in pots rather than out in your garden. Alternatively, stick to a single garden bed or assign one plot to each child with a single crop.
These goals will be more realistic, both holding their attention and helping them follow through to (literally) reap the rewards!
One good way to get your child interested in gardening is by giving them a say in each step of the process. Let them choose what they want to plant, such as a snack they enjoy. If your kid loves flowers, help them pick a variety that blooms in their favorite color (or lots of colors, such as a wildflower mix).
Alternatively, suggest a crop that will lead to an activity they enjoy, such as a pumpkin that you can carve into a Jack-o’-lantern together before Halloween.
Make sure your kids fully get to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Enjoy food from your garden together and involve them in the cooking process. Show them how to pick vegetables from the garden, wash them, and prepare them.
Try cooking a recipe using food you grew together, such as a pumpkin pie or pizza with homemade tomato sauce.
If your garden includes flowers, make a bouquet for your home and share flowers with your friends. Your child might also enjoy making a flower book and pressing the blossoms that they grew in their first garden plot.
Get Them Their Own Tools
To help your children become more independent and proactive:
- Make sure they’re not dependent on you for their gardening activities.
- Get them their own tools, such as gardening gloves, a pail, hoe, and spade.
- Skip the cheap plastic versions for kids and get them proper tools that will let them work effectively – just be sure to supervise them to ensure they don’t accidentally hurt themselves.
It helps foster independence and pride if you assign them their own pot (or garden plot), their own crop, and give them their own tools. They will see it as a personal project and be all the prouder when their plants bloom at last.
It might be easiest to start the process inside in a small planter or pot. This gives you more control over fragile seedlings as they first take root. It is also easier to keep kids invested and remember to water the seeds every day.
Your kids will enjoy watching their planters for signs of the earliest sprouts. Then, if you need more space, feel free to move the planter outside to the garden after a few weeks.
Fun Gardening Activities To Do With Kids
If you want to plan a fun project or activity with your kids, it may get them more invested in the garden. Kids love the chance to put their own spin on a garden. Here are some of the best gardening activities to do with kids.
If your child has a floral or nature name, invite them to plant the corresponding plant in their garden plot! Many of these plants are easy to grow (or just transplant, if you’d like to keep things super simple), including sage, African violets, daisies, ivy, and basil. If your child doesn’t have a botanical name, you can use the name of a family member, friend, or neighbor.
It can be fun to grow gardens in segments, letting kids work on one section at a time. One fun activity is to plant a rainbow garden. Choose your favorite herbs, flowers, fruits, or vegetables in each color.
Here are some suggestions for each color of your rainbow garden:
Orange – marigolds, orange peppers, pumpkins, nasturtiums, carrots
Yellow – squash, sunflowers, daisies, gourds
Green – zucchini, herbs, lettuce, onions
Blue – cornflowers, hydrangeas
Pink – hydrangeas, mosaic plants, some succulents
White – baby’s breath, lilies, cauliflower, mushrooms
Earth Day falls in late April every year. It is an excellent opportunity to teach your kids about ways to protect our planet. Dig for buried treasure in your garden, start a compost pile, or plant wildflower seeds around your yard. You can also make “fairy gardens” or share your freshly harvested produce with your friends and neighbors. There are endless ways to celebrate Earth Day together.
If there is anything more fun than seeing your garden grow, it is getting to eat the food you grew yourself. Kids love eating food out of the garden. Plant various fruits, veggies, and herbs that kids can pick and enjoy whenever you are out in the yard. Some favorites include tomatoes, strawberries, carrots, greens, and even edible flowers.
Make a calendar together of anticipated growth and harvest dates and develop ideas for using your plants. None of these dates will be exact, but a calendar is the perfect way to provide a visual guide for your kids and give them an idea of when they can anticipate seeing the fruits of their labor.
Gardening with your kids is a great opportunity to share science lessons with them. Some plants, for example, are known for dramatically changing color based on the pH of the soil in which they are planted. You can also test companion planting, just make sure you pick plants that are compatible. Plants like tomatoes don’t plant well with potatoes.
Try experimenting with this together with plants like the hydrangea macrophylla. This flower is known for turning blue in soil with high acidity levels and pink soil with high basic levels. Experiment with planting flowers in different parts of your yard and ask your kids how they think the flowers will grow.
Add A Birdhouse
Add things to your garden that attract local wildlife, including birdhouses and butterfly bushes. This is a good opportunity to explain the role these creatures play in your garden’s ecology and how they diversify your yard. It will also provide a fun activity for your kids to learn how to identify different kinds of birds.
Another fun option is to add a toad house to encourage toads to come into your garden. This will also help your plants thrive since toads eat pests that might otherwise snack on your crops.
If you are growing edible plants, encourage your kids to research the dishes in which they are used. Invite them to join you in making a menu and coming up with ways to use the plants you have grown in your garden.
This is also a great opportunity to encourage your kids to try new things. For example, they might not like cucumbers, but they might enjoy making the fresh cucumbers from your garden into pickles!
If your kids love pizza, try growing a “pizza garden” together. For this, you’ll need a circular garden plot and several sticks so that you can divide the plot into “slices”. In each slice, grow one of the ingredients you need to make homemade pizza, such as onions, tomatoes, basil, bell peppers, and mushrooms. You can plan a pizza night or pizza party with your favorite toppings when the garden is ready.
Fairy gardens are usually made for indoor plants, but you can just as easily put them outside. This is a nice way for kids to be creative and make the garden their own.
The whole idea between fairy gardens is making a tiny habitat for fairies to enjoy. You can do this using rocks, craft supplies, popsicle sticks, or things you find out in nature. You can find hundreds of ideas for fairy gardens on the internet.
This is a simple but fun activity that kids will love. All you have to do is find several large, mostly smooth rocks and let your kids go crazy painting them. You can use these as garden markers or simply let them use them to customize their garden plot. Just make sure that you use oil-based paint to prevent it from fading away the next time it rains!
Best Crops To Grow With Children
If you enjoy gardening, you probably already know that some plants are more challenging to grow than others. Though there is no limit to what you can plant in your garden with your kids, you might want to start with crops that are simpler and require minimal to moderate care.
You can also choose plants that grow more quickly. Here are our top suggestions for the first crops to grow with your kids.
Sunflowers are easy to grow and fun to watch develop. Kids love watching these larger-than-life flowers sprout. Sunflowers also grow quickly and, of course, produce sunflower seeds, which are a healthy snack. These flowers are an enriching venture for your garden!
Gourds are a great choice for your garden for many reasons. They are easy to grow from seeds and are vibrant and colorful, which children love. Your kids might enjoy each planting their own gourd and learning to tend it. It is a fun opportunity to watch their gourd grow from a tiny seed to a full-sized vegetable.
If you have a cat, your kids might enjoy growing catnip in your garden. You can even grow it inside of a pot so that you can avoid stray cats smelling it from inside. Catnip grows easily — in fact, sometimes too easy. You might find yourself tearing it up by the roots or pruning it, as it can become invasive. However, kids will enjoy seeing their feline friends go crazy for the treat.
Snap peas are a delicious snack, and one of many different types of peas. They are easy to grow in a pot or a greenhouse, though a traditional garden bed is perfect, too. Kids often have fun watching them grow and, of course, picking them and eating them right off the pod. It is also easy to save some peas, dry them, and plant them next year.
Some strawberry varieties are easier to grow than others. Alpine strawberries are easy to grow and make a great edible ground cover. You may want to consider a type that produces smaller fruit and blooms earlier, such as Delizz or Berried Treasure. Start with a plant to get things growing more quickly. Your kids will love seeing the delicious red fruit grow. You might even need to stop them from eating them straight off the bush.
Herbs are a favorite of hobby gardeners since they don’t need much space and grow quickly and easily. They are also an excellent choice for children since they are a wonderful sensory experience. Many herbs are fragrant, such as lemon balm, mint, rosemary, lavender, basil, and thyme. Kids also enjoy cooking with herbs that they grew themselves, and there is nothing easier than grabbing a handful of basil to throw into your dinner!
Carrots are a vegetable that grows quickly with minimal care. You’ll probably notice them spreading pretty soon if you plant them in a garden bed or large plot. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t grow them just as easily in a pot. Be sure they have plenty of room to grow down into the soil.
If you want to grow flowers with your kids, marigolds are a great choice. These bright flowers grow quickly with minimal care and are beautiful to look at. They are known for being extremely hardy, resisting drought and insects. They are also a natural mosquito repellent. But most exciting is their brightness and color.
If you have ever grown zucchini before, you’ll know how easy they grow. Zucchini can almost take over a garden. That makes it a perfect crop to grow with kids. Zucchini grows fast and hardily, which means that you are practically guaranteed to get a good harvest. Your kids will enjoy watching them grow and adding them to recipes. But because the crops are so large, you can also share them with neighbors or donate extras to food banks!
Lamb’s Ear is a lovely perennial that earns its name because of its soft, fuzzy foliage. This silvery-green plant is easy to grow, and children love the tactile experience of feeling the soft “ears”. While mainly ornamental these days, it is a lovely plant to have in your garden alongside other herbs and flowers.
There are so many wonderful ways to garden with your kids. It teaches important life lessons like patience and responsibility and even has physical health benefits, including immune system strengthening and reduced allergy rates. But perhaps even more important, it gives you a chance to spend time with your children, which can be the most vital thing of all!