Plant Those Seeds! 5 Tips for Gardening with Kids
From watching a beautiful hovering hummingbird to crunching on a sweet homegrown carrot, the garden is a magical place for kids. Not only are little ones able to connect with nature and learn firsthand where food comes from, they’re also able to dig in, get their hands dirty, and have a ton of fun while they’re at it.
And the best part is, you don't need to go far to enter this wide world of farming. Just find a spot in the backyard, a container on the porch, or a sunny windowsill, and check out some of our tried-and-true tips for gardening with kiddos.
1. Blend work with play
Planning, prepping, and planting — there’s a lot of hard work to do before your kid can triumphantly pluck a plump tomato from the vine. But hard work can also be a lot of fun, especially if it’s disguised as play. Below are a few ways we try to make gardening fun for kids.
Make a batch of soil soup: Commonly referred to as compost tea, this nutrient and microbe-rich fertilizer made from compost and water is fun to make and good for the garden. You can pick up a mix at your local nursery or whip some up using your own compost pile.
Keep a garden journal together: A daily or weekly journal is a great way to give kids things to look forward to in the garden. Have kids observe the garden and record their observations. Is there evidence of slug activity? Have the beans sprouted? Or create custom sections that align with your kid’s interests. If you’ve got a natural artist, have them draw a picture of the birds that eat the kale. If your kiddo seems to like a more scientific approach, give them a ruler and have them record the daily growth of the indoor starts.
Create some garden art: Instead of using basic plant markers to identify what’s growing in your beds, have kids paint wooden stakes with the names and images of the plants. Or snazz up the path to your garden with some homemade mosaic stepping stones. You’ll need a stepping stone mold, some concrete mix, and pieces of glass, stone, or ceramics (such as broken teacups or plates).
2. Give kids their own garden space
Letting kids have their own garden bed is a great way for them to take some ownership and feel invested in the garden. Give them a section of the existing garden area or use an old sandbox to create a garden space just for them. Be sure to ask your kid what they envision for their gardening space so you can help them decide what to plant. Maybe they want to grow the biggest zucchini in the world or grow and press flowers to make art with?
Pro tip: In addition to their own space, outfitting kids with their own garden tools and gear is a great way to get them motivated to garden. Pick up a set of tools specially made for kid-sized hands, let them pick out a fun sunhat, and get them a pair of comfy gardening shoes so their feet stay happy and supported through all the up-and-down tasks of gardening. Big and little kids love the Seacamp II CNX sandals because they’re easy to get on and off. Parents love them because they protect tiny toes and they’re completely machine washable. Or maybe you’re looking for a full-coverage option for your kiddo? Check out our durable and lightweight Chandler CNX shoes for big and little kids.
If you’re the one in need of a new pair of gardening shoes, here are some of our favorite styles for adults.
Any garden space makes a good space for kids, from a homemade planting box to an assortment of pots and upcycled plastic bins.
3. Set them up for success
Every gardener has their tale of a gardening attempt gone wrong. (Like trying to grow watermelons in a cold climate, or that corn that tasted strangely tangy.) Gardeners must take the good with the bad. If your kiddo has a wild idea, let them try it out but also encourage them to plant some of these classic winners so that they emerge victorious overall.
Sunflower, nasturtiums, and wildflower mixes are fun and impressive flowers for kids to plant in their gardens. Sunflowers grow big and tall, nasturtiums trail this way and that, and you just never know what will pop up with wildflowers! Look for a wildflower blend that includes varieties that attract birds, bees, and butterflies for even more enjoyment in the garden.
Lettuce or kale, carrots, tomato, or climbing peas are fun and easy veggies for kids to try out in their space. Lots of lettuce and kale varieties have a long harvest season which can feel very rewarding for kids. Carrots, tomatoes, and climbing peas each grow a bit differently which is enjoyable for kids to watch. Plus, kids can snack on them right from the garden which is a special treat for any aspiring gardener!
4. Create a gardening calendar
A gardening calendar is a fun way to get kids invested and looking forward to upcoming events and milestones in the garden. Make a note of germination times for certain plants so that kids know when they might expect to start seeing sprouts! Put some fun events on the calendar like buying and releasing ladybugs or building mason bee homes. Schedule planting days, weeding parties, and a harvest event so that kids can get excited about all the joys and adventures the garden can offer.
5. Bring things full circle
Whether they’re playing in the dirt or helping plant starts, the garden can be a great adventure for kids. But kids also really love to turn their gardening ventures into tangible delights. Make colorful bouquets from garden flowers, cook up a big pot of pasta sauce using fresh-picked tomatoes, or carve jack-o-lanterns from homegrown pumpkins. (One of our KEEN kids even set up a little pumpkin stand to reinvest funds back into their garden plot!) Whatever you decide to make, your kiddo will beam with pride at the fact that their hard work and collaboration with Mother Nature made it all possible.