Introducing children to gardening is a great way to increase their awareness of where food comes from and the importance of the environment in everyday life. Let’s get the conversation started with some tips and tools for gardening with kids. There’s no better time to start a garden at home than now, Spring time.
One of the conversations I hear over and over starts with one question…Where does my food come from? That may be one of the reasons why I love my farmer friends so much.
Gardens can be a great place to cultivate a meaningful and fun learning experience for children. It’s a natural match. Gardening can offer children an opportunity to learn the life cycle process, by which plants are grown, as well as responsibility, caretaking, independence, and environmental awareness.
For parents struggling to find ways to encourage their kids to eat a healthy and balanced diet, gardening can be an important tool. Don’t let the idea overwhelm you. Gardening doesn’t require a perfectly level, large or sunny backyard.
Start With What You hHave
- Try planting in a small raised bed.
- Or grow a few edibles in existing landscaping.
- Lean a trellis against an outside wall to grow beans or other edible vines.
- If you don’t have a lot of outdoor space, a few containers and soil in a sunny spot can be an easy way to grow herbs or some sweet cherry tomatoes that kids won’t be able to resist.
- If your backyard is non-existing, place some pots on the windowsill and grow a few of your favorite herbs.
Our goal is to create opportunities for kids to learn and grow through gardening, engaging their natural curiosity and wonder.
Steps Follow When Gardening with Kids at Home
- Start small. You don’t need a large yard to teach your child about gardening. In fact, small and simple is generally better because children are more likely to maintain interest and less likely to become overwhelmed.
- Location, location. After step one, now is time to determine your garden’s location.
Plant beans or sunflowers in cups placed in a sunny window. Grow a tomato plant in a pot on your patio. Grow a small window garden of flowers.
Use a simple project like these to teach your child about gardening basics, such as healthy soil, sunlight, and water. As your child gains experience and interest, you can graduate to a small vegetable or flower garden.
Find a location outside where you can place some gardening containers or place a garden bed.
- Soil. It is also important to determine the soil quality of the area and assess what needs to be added to the soil chemistry to maximize growth potential.
The soil should be dug six to ten inches. Layering the soil with some kind of organic material will help to strengthen it.
- Plan your garden. Drawing up a plan of the garden and determining what plants you want to grow is another way to help make the most of the garden’s potential.
- Container gardening. For those who don’t have a lot of space to garden, containers are another option for growing plants.
Containers can be made from materials such as plastic or clay, and must have adequate drainage to avoid root rot.
Plants grown in containers should be planted in a ready to use potting soil and watered frequently.
- Cultivate good habits. Like many things in life, gardening success has as much to do with consistency as with luck or skill.
Set aside 15 to 20 minutes once or twice a week to tend the garden. Show your child how to pull weeds and water the garden.
These experiences offer bite-size lessons in responsibility and organization.
- Gardening tools.
Some basic gardening tools to have handy are:
- watering cans
Teach your kids to store the tools away after use.
- Eat the fruits of your labors. Grab cherry tomatoes and eat right there and then, that’s what we did as kids when my mom planted them in our backyard in Boston.
Children get firsthand experience of the food cycle when the plants and veggies they grew appear on your dinner table. Like this tasty green beans recipe. Cook a tasty meal and let your child help prepare it. Make Margherita pizza with tomatoes and basil. Scrub carrots for a quick snack.
Better yet, invite friends to join the feast or give your surplus vegetables to a food bank.
Plants Kids Love to Grow
When selecting plants to grow with children, it is important to incorporate plants that the children will enjoy growing most. Children enjoy plants that grow quickly, and are easily recognizable.
In most cases, selecting plants that have larger seeds are easier for small hands to handle. A few plants that meet these criteria are:
- Snow Peas
- Cherry tomatoes
But also let them decide what to grow. What do they like to eat?
For your sanity keep the number of choices age-appropriate. Usually, the younger the kids are, the shorter the attention spans.
Make it Fun For Kids!
Starts Seeds Indoors
Spring is the prime time for starting seeds, and getting outdoors and messy is important! Or, start some seeds indoors if it is too early for planting outside in your location.
Remember, the smaller the kids, the larger the seeds should be so they are big enough for small fingers to handle. Here are some good seeds to start both indoors or outdoors:
These plants will germinate and grow quickly, which makes them an interesting subject for any kid and adult to watch.
As you plan gardening activities with kids, consider the growing season and climate in your area. Choose plants known to grow well there. Think about your schedule, including vacations, and plan accordingly.
It’s much better to grow a small garden successfully than plan an unrealistic larger project that ends with poor results. Visit reputable local nurseries or your state’s online university extension service to learn more about gardening in your area.
Gardening is a fun outdoor activity you can share with your child. Check out our essential gardening tools for beginners here and our tips on how to DIY a raised garden bed. Above all, remember to make it fun for your kids and yourself.
What do you love to garden at home? Maybe it’s flowers, herbs or vegetables!