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It’s that time of year again, time to get outside and dig into the earth. I know you’ve been counting all the way through winter to get to this, but you shouldn’t leave your kids out of the mix. Think of all the fun ya’ll could have.
That’s right, time to Garden with your kids. If you have children this could be the perfect opportunity to bond with your child by creating a fun garden with kids.
Gardening with kids!
Sure gardening is fun to do by yourself, you can decide what to put in, design it, spend time in it, etc. But when you bring your kids into it, it will turn into a fun family event that will last all summer long. Plus there are so many bonuses with education for your child. Kids learn about responsibilities, motor skills, science, God, math, how to grow food, and so much more.
Kids love to play outside (my siblings loved making mudpies and playing kitchen), they want to discover the world around them and get dirty. Teaching kids how to grow and nurture a garden will help them to eat healthier later on in life. Did I mention it can be fun? I mean really fun!
What to grow in a garden with kids
Let your child help you pick out what they want to grow before you even get started! If you start off with spinach or kale, which are very easy to grow (so this could be a perfect start for kids), their first thoughts might be “are you going to make me eat that?” If that is your child, try something different for them.
Of course, that’s not saying you shouldn’t grow that, but maybe that should be on mom’s side of the garden. They can still tend to it or watch how fast it grows. Maybe even help you wash it and cook it. Make it into fun snacks and they may pick it next time. (kale chips, salad)
It is better to let them in on the process from the beginning. Let your children help pick out the foods you will be growing in their little part of the garden. Even when I make dinner, I’ll give the pickiest eater the option of two different sides and they will normally eat that one even if it is something they wouldn’t typically like because they got to choose it.
Big Seeds are best for little hands:
Gardening with kids can be a lot of fun, but sometimes those tiny seeds can be frustrating to them. Small hands will do better with bigger seeds. Plants that grow faster and produce fruits (or seeds, in the case of the sunflowers) fairly quickly and consistently throughout the growing season will probably be best for those just starting out, especially if they have a lack of patience. Not many kids will stay interested if they don’t see something right away. The following small list for those little hands.
- sunflowers -these are fun because as they grow your child can see how tall they are compared to the stalk.
- watermelon – Have an outdoor picnic with the watermelon. Bring your kids in to show them what it looks like inside as you cut it open. Then let them eat it at the picnic.
- pumpkin – this can be a lot of fun come Fall. Let them make pumpkin pie, seeds, or even a Jack-o-lantern!
- cucumbers – have a spa day with them using the cucumbers or introduce them to cucumber sandwiches.
- beans – see how tall they can get their bean vines to grow.
- potatoes– This is definitely one that takes time but your kids will love digging the potatoes out of the dirt in the end. Have them wash them and then bake them.
- bell peppers– If you get these in a variety of colors (yellow, green, orange, and red) your kids will see all different colors as they grow. Once harvested, cut it open and show them how it is hollow but tons of seeds in the center. They’ll be excited about having more seeds. Now introduce them to some snacks/meals using bell peppers.
- squash– These would be great if you grew them near the cucumbers to shown them the difference. (compare and contrast) These provide lots of produce which the kids will love to see. Harvest time means they can see how big theirs got compared to yours. There are many ways to eat them from dicing them and tossing them into meals, baking them, putting oil on them and roasting them, etc.
Guide your children towards easier starter plants such as sunflowers which will help bring bees and birds to your garden. These pollinators are an important part of the gardening process. There are some cons to planting sunflowers but you can decide if they are worth it in your garden. I love them! Many people plant them around the edges of their garden so they are near enough to attract the pollinators but far enough away to not cause harm to other plants.
Another bonus for the sunflower is they make a great decoration, gifts to give another (simply tieing a ribbon around it) or eat it. You can eat the whole flower or you can pluck the seeds and eat just the sunflower seeds, with a little salt they taste great.
Pole beans and snap peas are another great starter for children as they grow heartily and quickly. You can have 4-6 per pole climb together. If you are feeling adventurous you could have 3-4 poles and angle them to make a tent. As the vines grow up the pipe/pole it’ll form a little tent your child can go in. Be watchful for snakes if you live in an area that gets them.
When you harvest them, they will grow more beans, allowing you to have a supply throughout the growing season. It does take 6-8 weeks for them to sprout. Kids will love plucking them and eating them! Talk about a fun gardening time with your kids.
Radishes and marigolds are also great starters as they grow quickly and are hearty plants that can endure some rough handling from little hands while they learn. Carrots and zucchini are also fun to plant but these seeds are little for kids as well.
Radishes and carrots will be fun for kids to test their strength as they pull out the vegetables from the ground. You can encourage them and cheer them on when they get them out!
My youngest grew marigolds last year (we bought them at a nursery as seedlings) and loved how quickly they opened up and how pretty they all were. That was his first choice for this year’s garden. Honestly, I think they just love to see flowers come in all types of different shades. Have them pick out their favorite colors and grow them. These will also attract bees and butterflies to the garden.
Pumpkins and squash are great to grow for Fall but make sure when planting these seeds you have plenty of space. This one is going to roam a lot. Your kids will love watching how big these get and the different colors they change into. The squash will have beautiful flowers that you can actually eat if you choose.
Seed Starter Ideas for Your Garden
If you are starting from seeds, teaching kids how to plant, water, and germinate the seeds is an important first step. They get to watch as the first seedlings appear and this will get them wondering how it happened and what will happen next. A fun exercise is to buy or make them a plant journal (one is provided above) and have them draw what they see weekly. You can write down whatever they say.
Helping Kids Start from Seeds
With the weather so crazy lately, I figured why not start our garden indoors. Try using those broken eggshells as a base to hold soil and the seeds in. This way they get all the nutrients they need. Once they are ready to plant outdoors they’ll be sturdy.
Another thought is to try container gardens, use up those old yogurt cups and drill a few small holes at the bottom. Fill it with soil, poke a hole, and water it. Make sure it sits in sunlight (a window would be best).
Showing your kiddos how to get the soil just right and what to start the seeds off in is another rewarding experience. You can easily start with seedling starters from any supermarket store (Lowe’s/Home Depot) now but you can also create your own DIY starter kits. This is a great project for those bored little ones during Spring Break right before the planting season starts.
Buying Seedlings for a Starter Garden
Buying seedlings from your local farmer’s market or nursery is another affordable way to start your young gardener’s experience. It is a fun trip and you can show them how to pick out the heartiest looking seedlings.
For me, this is the way to go because I can never get them to grow from a sprout. So don’t feel bad about starting this way, it helps encourage kids and gets them past that hard stage.
Tip: Don’t get the ones with yellowing leaves or has some already withering. If they look sickly, chances are they are.
You can explain how to make sure your soil is just right for growing plants and pick up the necessary additives so your garden will continue nourishing your plants. When you are helping your little one pick out seedlings, look to make sure they are hearty and not flowering to ensure you get the most from your plants.
When do you start your kids gardening?
While kids of all ages are welcome to help with gardening, there are some basic skills that are important to have (or learn) before digging in. I recommend starting your children around kindergarten. This is a great age to get kids started and interested in gardening.
At this age, kids are willing to help and are absorbing all of the knowledge they can. Be prepared because they will ask all types of questions. They also have the motor skills to handle seedlings without demolishing them, but if you start with toddlers or preschoolers, they can learn along the way. Older kids can join at any time, adding things like scheduling and planning will help them find it more of an adventure.
Gardening Tools for Kids
There are all types of gardening tools for kids of all ages. I suggest purchasing more long-term tools, not something cheap and flimsy that’ll break after it hits a hard dirt clod. Try to mirror the tool after your own, it may not be the same color, but make it the same style.
If you can try getting wooden handles, as they are a little harder to break/bend and won’t get too hot if left out in the sun as a metal one would. The toddlers and preschoolers may just want to copy mom and dad so the following tools may give those little helpers joy. (Course older kids will love their own set of gardening tools too)
- watering pail
- good pair of gloves
- sun hat (to try to keep the sun off them)
- handset of rake/spade/shovel if they are doing a mini garden
Growing Bugs for the Garden
Don’t forget now could be a good time to add a bit more science to the mix. Help your kids grow ladybugs or butterflies and let them loose in your garden too. These little kits will allow them to watch them from eggs to the beautiful beauties they become.
Gardening through the Seasons with Seeds
While it depends on the gardening zone you live in, most began their garden preparations in February if they were going to start with seeds. Not to worry with all that crazy weather you can still do them indoors. Let your children pick what they want to grow and get the seeds started indoors.
This is a great way to teach kids about the germination process and how growing seeds work. Starting from seeds lets you and your child follow the entire life cycle from seed to sprout to flower and finally the fruit.
Here’s a little something I whipped up for those making pumpkins! FREE Gardening journal for kids plus a pumpkin life cycle worksheet!
Allow your kids to help with pulling weeds and adding mulch to the soil also. As kids, most of us loved getting our hands dirty – most of our kids are no different! (just as a precaution you may want a small bucket of water in case you have some that do object to dirt. I do have one.) When it is time to plant the sprouts outside, let them in on that fun, too. Teach them how big of a hole to dig and how to water a seedling for the best results.
Children, like adults, love to see the fruits of their labor. Allowing your children in on the process gives them something to feel proud about and maybe even to show off. This is a great time to bond and connect with your children while teaching them a life skill they will keep with them forever. Your children will cherish the moments you spend together in the garden, even after they’re grown and have kids of their own.
22 Fun Gardening Activities for Your Child
- Have them list their favorite fruits and vegetables
- Weed the beds. Let them experiment with hoes and shovels.
- Draw a map of the garden they’d like to see
- Gather all the sticks and stones/rocks out of the gardening bed
- Watering chores
- Plant and measure the seeds out. (Have them poke seed holes with a pencil.)
- Make a gardening stone- they have kits at Walmart and Hobby Lobby
- Paint rocks or stones to form their own little gardening wall or Kindness rocks to spread around town.
- Make Gardening Signs and stake them into the rows.
- Make different types of gardens with them- Vegetable, fruit, flowers, herb, pizza, salad, fairy, etc.
- Gardening Scavenger Hunt- write or draw a list of things for your child to find in or around the garden. Make them hunt out the bugs, types of flowers, plants, etc.
- Planting schedules are great for the older kids. They can figure out what is best to plant in which season, how long it takes to sprout, harvest, etc.
- Harvest their produce on their own fruit/vegetables
- Have them make a meal out of what they’ve harvested and make their own little cookbook.
- Plant something in a small pot and have them decorate the pot
- Make a recycled bottle bird feeder to hang near the garden
- Draw something in the garden every day
- Teach them about something they drew. If they drew a bee, teach them about the hive, how it is made, the different types of bees, etc.
- Pick a flower and share it with a friend/neighbor
- Add a hummingbird feeder to your garden and watch them come
- Create a bug house
- Make an indoor garden
Fun Gardening with Kids videos
Not everyone learns the same way, these videos could be a lot of fun for your kids or even just to give you some extra ideas of how to enjoy gardening with your kids.
I would love to know what ya’ll are planting with your kids. Currently we have tomatoes, strawberries and bell peppers. Marigolds are coming up from last year.