The Basics to Gardening With Children

Reading Time: 10 minutes

"Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden"

Robert Brault

Gardening is a pastime that is not just for adults but is also a great way to teach children life skills. To pique their interest be sure to ask questions, be patient, and make some memories while they learn about the environment. Helping your children develop a green thumb by spending some time playing in the dirt, not only teaches them about self-sustainability but is also an education they will never forget. For boys or girls of any age, gardening is an amazing way to reconnect with nature while getting light exercise, sunlight, and spending quality time with their parents. It can also be quite fun to involve mom and dad or grandparents when they come to visit.

Rather than see your children get lost in the fake world of video gaming, get them outdoors and show them the benefits of growing food and veggies for yourself. There are many health benefits of gardening including improved mental health, decreased stress, social interaction, vitamin D from the sun, and getting away from GMO products grown with pesticides. This is specifically what our blog is dedicated to.

Gardening, without a doubt, is a great investment to the beauty of your home and to your overall health. You can also enjoy the beauty of nature as you attract various wildlife including beneficial insects and birds to your local environment.

 Given these advantages, it makes sense why any parent should move their kids out of their beds, out of the house or off the couch and into the yard to gain an appreciation for nature. How do you convince your kids to spend time in the garden? For those with younger children, what type of activities can you plan so gardening doesn’t seem like a chore?   

Depending on the age of your children, the ways to motivate them to the garden may differ, but regardless of their age, we believe everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy gardening and reap its bounties.  

 In this article, we go over the benefits of gardening for kids. We also offer ideas and tips to include what plants are easy to grow for families. We also cover how to provide educational content and activities for your younger ones so that everyone can enjoy the garden together.  It’s time to get to work! Lets clear the leaves, move the rocks, get your rakes, trowels, shovel, and hoe ready. We can plant in containers, a raised bed garden, or even just work directly in the ground. Get your hose out because we are about to do something fun for everyone! Your family will love it, my family does. The adventure begins now.

Six Benefits of Gardening for Kids

A little girl leaning to harvest fruit

From the perspective of someone who doesn’t have a lot of yard space, gardening may not look like a possibility but there are a lot of opportunities out there for small spaces. You can find some fantastic ideas on the web for small space gardening including ideas to grow food on your patio or balcony. Gardening can help raise healthier and happier kids. But once you have overcome the first obstacle of where you will plant your garden, why should you try gardening with your kids? Here are a few very compelling reasons to invest the time to engage your children in the garden. 

1. Develops Motor Skills  

From a young age, children need to develop their motor skills to grow confidence in their bodies and in themselves. Without mastering their motor skills, kids will have less independence in exploring their world.  Gardening provides multiple outlets to do that. Whether it’s lifting dirt into pots, pulling out weeds, or planting seeds, gardening has many opportunities for kids to develop their muscles both large and small. 

2. Integrate Math and Science 

Garden activities allow for a variety of opportunities with introducing math and science from an early age. You can have your young ones figure out simple math by adding or subtracting seeds, teach them how to measure, as well as incorporate easy geometry by identifying shapes. Science-wise, you can help your children set up an experiment and walk them through the scientific process of creating a hypothesis, making a control and experimental group, and recording data in a notebook.  

3. Shows the Product of Effort Through Cultivation, Care, To Harvest 

Gardening is an activity where you can physically see the results of your time and energy—there’s nothing more satisfying than watching a barren yard come to life with colorful blooms and fresh vegetables. Regardless of your age, gardening is a great message to kids that even though the initial effort isn’t tangible, over time it will pay off.  

4. Teaches Ownership, Team Work, Patience, Responsibility, Consistency, Awareness, and Acceptance of Failure 

Patience, responsibility, and acceptance of failure are important soft skills in life. No matter your background, all humans go through stressful situations once in their lifetime. Gardening can teach all three of these skills as kids wait for their plants to grow, take accountability in raising their plants, and also learn that sometimes things don’t go as expected in life—and that’s alright.  

5. Engages Every System and All The Senses 

In general, people have different preferred methods for learning. Some individuals are better at visual learning and some are better at auditory learning. In a few cases, you have individuals who are better at learning by moving. When it comes to children though, kids love to have their senses engaged. With the interesting array of colors and hues found in a garden, as well as the scents and the sounds, gardening is an activity where you can facilitate learning through fully engaging your child.  

6. Promotes Healthy Eating 

One plus with gardening is that you can grow your own food crop instead of going to the store for your vegetables, herbs, and fruit you will harvest them right from your own backyard. With homegrown vegetables, your kids will be more excited to grow and try their own organic natural produce. Better yet, sit down with your children and see what they would like to nurture in the garden and teach them to compost with earthworms and learn the joys of harvesting healthy food to the table from the yard.  

The Basics to gardening with children

How to Include Your Kids in the Garden

The Basics to Gardening With Children - NatureZedge

Plants to Consider

It’s hard to choose what plants to get for your garden, especially if you have limited space, are intimidated by the number of species out there, or can only stick to what’s available in the growing season. When it comes to younger children, we recommend plants that have short germination periods, quick growth, and are easy to maintain. This way you can keep your children, especially if they have short attention spans, engaged over a longer period of time. According to this list made by HGTV, here are some plants to consider for your garden:  Some other great ideas are to theme your garden for fruits, salads, or by holidays such as pumpkins for carving on Halloween, Thanksgiving or desserts such as pies whatever the preferences.

Plants to consider when teaching children to garden

Decorate and DIY Together

If you just moved to a new home, are coming out of a winter frost, or are revamping your garden, then it’s the perfect time to plan out your garden with your kids and a great photo op. Don’t be hesitant to include them every step of the way—when stopping by your local gardening center or home goods store, let your children have a part in the research and choosing the pots, the bird feeders, and the decor for your garden. If you have multiple kids, consider letting them choose their own unique watering cans as well for a personalized touch.  

For those who prefer a more hands-on approach, here’s a tip: you can also step up and suggest DIY skill projects such as creating a garden bed frame or a raised garden bed. It doesn’t take too many materials to create a solid wooden garden bed, just a quick trip to the local home development center for high-quality wood. Not only does a garden bed save space for your home, but it can make the garden easier for your loved one’s backs.

Here’s how to make your own raised garden bed

Give Them Roles

Give your kids roles to play in the garden

For those with larger families, make gardening fun by giving your kids roles and rotating the roles every week. This way your children can have a holistic view of what it takes to nurture a garden. A few roles to consider are:  

Plant Physician — Kids in this role should check for wilting or yellowing plants, and ensure that all plants in the garden are doing healthy.  

Pest Punisher — For this particular role, kids will search out for insects that may cause damage to your plants. Make sure your kids wear gloves if they are removing insects by hand, or to use a hose to wash away harmful bugs.  

Weeder — Make sure to give your kids a pair of sturdy, thick gardening gloves for this tough job. The weeder should know what weeds look like and pluck them from the garden.  

Water Deputy — Besides checking for spots of moist soil and clay, the water deputy’s main goal is to provide ample water for all plants in the garden at the root. Direct the water deputy to water plants at their roots and stem. If necessary, the water deputy may need to take up their watering can again to water plants if the day is too hot.  

While these are just a few sample roles you can include, feel free to make up your own for whatever your garden needs! 

The Basics to Gardening With Children - NatureZedge

Pizza Garden

All you need for a pizza garden is a circular plot of land with arable soil. Measure out the circle with your kids, and make sure they’re able to reach the center of the circle with a stretch of their arm from the circle’s edge. If they’re not able to reach the center of the circle, then the plot is too large and won’t provide for comfortable gardening. Once you adjust the circle’s diameter to a good length, make sure there is a two feet perimeter around the circle so your children can walk and garden in ease. 

The next step is to divide the circle areas into wedges—like a pizza. In multiple blogs, such as Gardener’s Path, it’s suggested to plant a different vegetable or herb related to pizza in each wedge, such as tomatoes, garlic, and basil [4] If your younger kids ask about where the bread or cheese comes from, consider also including activities related to baking bread or visiting a local dairy farm. 

While the pizza garden earns its name from its distinctive shape, you can also replace the tomato, garlic, and basil with any other flower, vegetable, or herb. Another example includes planting flowers your kids want for the garden or incorporating vegetables/herbs from your children’s favorite dishes.  

Three Sisters

Another gardening project to consider is a Three Sisters garden. The Three Sisters refer to crops important to Native Americans—corn, beans, and squash. These three crops were central to their livelihoods, acting as an essential food source as well as rejuvenating the soil with nutrients.  

 While there are specific layouts that the Three Sisters were planted in so the crops could complement one another, you can plant the Three Sisters to what best fits your garden space. Be sure to take time from gardening to explain the story of the Three Sisters to your children and to show how important it is to consider how plants can affect the soils around them. Here are some additional resources on the “Three Sisters” gardening technique.

Activities Related to Gardening

The Basics to Gardening With Children - NatureZedge

Are the younger ones not in the mood? Do they need a small break from breaking up the soil and planting? Is it winter time and you’re way past growing season? Feel free to also incorporate a different garden activity and games with your gardening. We list a few below that will engage your children and keep them active physically and/or mentally:  

1. Scavenger Hunt 

If you have a plethora of gardening tools, you can have your kids go on a scavenger hunt for them. Hide the tools around the garden and have your kids compete to see who can find all the tools the fastest. Make sure they each have their own pencil and paper to mark everything down! 

2. Garden in a Glove  

The Garden in a Glove is an effective indoor activity to show kids how seed germination works. All you need for this activity is a clear plastic glove, five cotton balls, three to four seeds of five different varieties, and a pencil. For the seeds, we suggest choosing a vegetable such as tomatoes, lettuce, or cucumber. 

The first step is to wet the cotton balls and wring them of extra water. Afterward, place the five different varieties of seeds in their own cotton ball. When you have finished doing this, place each cotton ball at the fingertip of the glove. Use the pencil if needed. Once the cotton balls are in place, inflate the plastic glove and close it off with a twist tie. From here, you can tape the glove to a window, wall, or door, and your kids can watch the seeds germinate within three to five days. Consider keeping a journal to document the seeds’ growth. You can transplant the plants and their cotton balls to the soil after one and a half to two weeks.  

3. Daily Gardening Journal 

If your kids are avid gardeners, consider buying them a gardening journal where they can document the process of their favorite plants or write down any observations they have from a day of gardening. Great gardening journals include this printable one from Essential Homestead.

4. Drying/Pressing Flowers 

Especially in the late autumn, drying, pressing, and preserving flowers is a great way to pass a long afternoon at home. Furthermore, kids can have a physical keepsake of their favorite flowers as pressed flowers can be used as bookmarks or as jewelry embellishments.   

When drying flowers, the best method is to hang them. Simply cut the flower before it reaches full bloom hang them upside down with a clothespin from a line. Though it will take several weeks, you will be able to preserve the flower’s color. This method is best for those who want to display dried flowers in a vase.  

For pressed flowers, this method will also take a few weeks and flowers cut before full bloom, but doesn’t require that much setup. All you need is extra layers of paper and many books. Layer paper below and above the flowers, leave the flowers within a book and then stack more books on top of that book. 

Final Thoughts...

When it comes to child development, there are many different activities that play a pivotal role in how a child grows up. While gardening is only just one learning experience out of the many you can introduce to your child, we believe with a diversity of gardening projects and a motivating attitude any child can enjoy the garden.

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