Gardening With Children: 5 Tips To Get Them Outside
Gardening with children is so much fun! Some of my favorite childhood memories involve gardening with my grandparents. Tasting chives and carrots fresh from the garden bed was truly something that gave me the inspiration to garden today. Most kids can get something out of gardening, and tasting that fresh produce is a great way to involve them in that process.
You probably already know the benefits of time spent in the yard and away from the couch, including those to the immune system and mental space. But how do we help our kids get into gardening – an activity that can carry into adulthood, and benefit them for life? There are tons of ways to do this, and we’ve covered a few of them here.
We’ve examined hydroponics for kids, but let’s discuss a few strategies to provoke general interest in gardening among your kids. By getting them involved, you’re helping them understand seasonal cycles, and the seeming miracle that is the growth of a seed into a plant. Maybe you will help them develop memories and a green thumb that lasts a lifetime too!
What’s Their Inspiration?
This is one of the easiest and most successful ways to get kids into the garden, even at an early age. Start by asking them what they want to grow. Giving them a choice to grow their favorite plants helps them feel like they have a say in how their gardening experience will go. If they love blueberry pie, teach them how to grow blueberries. If they adore french fries, show them how to grow potatoes.
Or try gardening with children by growing a pizza garden, with cherry tomatoes and herbs, like basil, oregano, sage, and garlic. Posing the idea of a food-centric garden will not only pique their interest with a delicious snack here and there, it will give them a better understanding of gardening for the bigger picture, especially in regards to companion planting.
Now your kids have an incentive to garden, and you have given them one of the best gifts anyone can give. You’re also drawing them closer to understanding how food goes from point A (a seed) to point B (the time to pick vegetables). If they have a passion for environmental awareness and want to learn the tenets of organic gardening, that’s another avenue you can follow.
Maybe your kid is more interested in growing and planting flowers than food crops and herbs. Perhaps they’d like to grow several different kinds of cut-and-come-again flowers. Or maybe your kids love a certain kind of habitat, and the plants that fit into the ecology of that environment.
Growing flowers or cacti, or even jungle understory plants is totally possible with your children. If you need inspiration, try heading to the nearest botanical gardens to draw it in. Some even have a children’s garden on site that can help you determine what is best for your situation.
Give Them The Tools They Need to Grow
One important factor in giving your child responsibility for plants is determining the amount of space dedicated to that purpose. The kind of space is important too. An outdoor space or outdoor raised bed is just as instructive as indoor spaces are. We have a great piece on Indoor Gardening for Beginners that would translate well for gardening with children. You can give them their own window space with their own plant pots to grow a garden of their choosing.
Maybe you live in an area with an established garden, or a condo or apartment where the maximum amount of room is a balcony. Less space is not a hindrance, and showing your child how to maximize a container garden within those parameters is another great lesson for them.
Or maybe you’d like to start gardening with kids by letting your kid pick out a plant at the local nursery to see how it goes with one plant, rather than a garden bed, or balcony garden. You could even establish a child’s garden in your backyard that your kid and their friends can enjoy.
What if your kid wants to plant flowers from seed, or what if they’d love to bring home some of the flowers they see at a nursery? By giving them agency when it comes to what will be in the garden, you’re allowing them to be the main character in their own adventure – and a wholesome one at that.
Another really fun part of giving your kid the responsibility to create and maintain their own garden and see how plants grow is giving them tools designed for a person their size. Grab some gardening gloves sized for young gardeners. Get them a shovel, trowel, and watering cans engineered for their hands.
If they’re interested in soil, or maybe they have a budding interest in soil science, give them their own little compost pile or worm bag to build next to yours. As you mow, allow them to add grass clippings and organic material like kitchen scraps. They’ll learn about the process of building soil, and about the elements that make up compost.
It’s about giving them their own space, and their own tools to work with to make a great garden. Depending on their age and motor skills, you can assist them or let them do their thing on their own!
Instructive and Fun Gardening Activities
There are so many ways to make gardening fun, and gardening with kids is no exception! Here are a few fun ideas with some great tips for gardening with children to get your kids interested in cultivating a garden space of their own.
Grow a Plant From Seed
One way to get kids gardening is to help plant seeds. Let them see what happens as for a few weeks as a seed germinates. One basic way to do this is to place a lima bean in a damp paper towel and put it in a plastic bag. Once it starts to grow, you can move it to a starter pot, and then your garden.
Or try rooting seed potatoes. Place a potato in a clear glass of water, anchored on the side of the glass with four toothpicks. Put the glass in an area that receives sunlight for about 6 hours of the day. You and your kids can watch the roots grow, and then plant the potato when sufficient rooting has occurred.
Another easy plant that is a lot of fun to sprout from seed is a chia plant. Soak the seeds for a day before spreading them on some clay. Then watch as each of the tiny chia seeds sprout, forming tiny plants. Of course, a direct garden sow is instructive too.
You can spend as much time as you want teaching them how the plant works and the benefits of having it in the garden. They are learning a great hobby and learning about plant growth all at the same time.
Make It a Game
If there’s one thing kids love, it’s games. Having a friendly competition between yourself and your child or between siblings is a great idea. Inserting play into gardening projects can take them from fun to so much fun. Choose a plant that produces something that can be easily measured, like peppers, tomatoes, or other vegetables. Give them the supplies they need and assist them in producing the largest vegetable.
Offer a reward to the winner. It could be as simple as a trip to get ice cream or their favorite treat. You can incentivize garden maintenance tasks this way too. Whoever has the least amount of weeds in their garden gets the prize.
If competition is something you want to shy away from, try rewarding everyone for their persistence in completing gardening tasks.
Small victories and achievements along the way keep them interested because the process of growing plants is sometimes much slower than the fast-paced world we live in. Feel free to put a personal twist on these competitions and make it a family affair. Gardening with children can be a fun game for adults too.
Garden Planning and Scheduling
Routine is very important to many people, and kids are no exception. If they know that part of the morning routine involves going out to water plants or even just checking on them, it will become a normal part of their day. They may even look forward to waking up in the morning to spend time in the garden.
Make sure that as you develop a routine with your children, you show excitement and enthusiasm. Even the most enthused gardeners can find certain tasks a bit of a chore. Showing them how a routine can pay off is a great opportunity for them to see the progress of consistent effort.
A daily walk in the yard to water the plants, check plant growth, and even look for garden visitors, like birds, cool bugs, and wildlife will add a fun part to your kid’s schedule. Soon they will be looking forward to the quality time they are getting with the plants and their parents.
They may even get a sense of the routines that occur in the wild as well. Kids love watching birds at a bird feeder or bird bath! They also love to see the garden grow.
One way to make planning and gardening ideas fun for the whole family is to use visual aids. A calendar or garden planner is important for any gardener, and kids who are visual learners will especially benefit from viewing their tasks and plans in a physical format. Making sorting through seed packets a semi-annual event can instill even more excitement about the upcoming season.
Incorporating color-coding and fun stickers to denote planting times or maintenance activities in a vegetable garden layout is sure to hook your kids into planning and scheduling. If working with a paper planner isn’t optimal, try a planner app instead.
The most important skill learned from planning and scheduling is understanding the growing season, and the timing involved in working seasonally. Knowing when the growing season starts and ends, and how to plan a garden plot within those parameters is a fun challenge for kids and adults alike.
Gardening Is Fun!
Remember, kids activities in the garden are a blast! If you don’t enjoy it, neither will they. Try not to force your kids into it. Rather, help your kids learn by example. We want to build interest, and a routine, and help them discover a new hobby that will improve their self esteem and their lives overall.
You get to spend quality time with them and learn more about their thinking and development. In turn, you learn more about yours. Learning about responsibility and the rewards of hard work is another benefit. All this while spending time outside with people they love!
Make sure your kids enjoy what they do, teach them new skills, and you’ve set them up for success in the future. Involve them in the processes of growing tomato plants and snow peas and harvesting them alike. Let them taste the difference between store-bought produce and home-grown. That way they can develop even further interest in growing their own healthy plants.
One of the most important parts of gardening is learning from your mistakes. When that happens for your kids (and it will) meet these challenges with enthusiasm and understanding that it’s impossible to get it right the first time every time.
Teaching your kids to meet obstacles and challenges with curiosity will help them translate that skill into other areas of their lives – and other plants too! It will give them space to make up great ideas of their own.