Gardening is a great way to get kids involved in what they eat and learn about where food comes from. They get their hands dirty, learn how to care for something over a period of time, and they’re also more likely to eat what they helped grow. Starting a container garden with kids is a great option since the plants will be at their level, for young children this gives them something to hold onto.
When to Introduce Gardening to Kids
It’s thought that infants and toddlers are too young to garden but gardening can be introduced at any age. If you already garden yourself it’s easy to start including your young kids in the gardening process. Young children learn through their senses so while they might not be ready to help you weed, they are ready to touch and feel the dirt or plants that you already have established.
Introducing gardening to older kids is fun as they can be more involved in the process. They can help choose what they want to grow, where they think the best place to plant will be, and they can learn about the processes that the plants go through if you want to get scientific with them.
What to Plant – Top 5 Crops for Kids
There are lots of plants that are great options to grow with children but I’ve listed five that we’ve had good luck with.
- Lettuce, Kale, Chard and other salad greens – salad greens are great for kids because they are quick growers and are relatively easy. Lettuce doesn’t mind being in the shade so even if your house doesn’t get much sunlight lettuce is still a great crop to grow.
- Radishes – Radishes are generally a spring crop and are also quick to germinate, which is satisfying for the young gardener. Radishes are also a fun crop because you get to see the radish forming once they get larger.
- Bachelor Buttons – These cute little flowers are sure to make your little one happy. They grow tall and can get spindly but the lovely little blue flowers are fun to enjoy. They will also likely attract bees to your garden which are also fun for children to see buzzing around.
- Sugar Snap Peas – Snap peas are quick growing early summer crop that children can enjoy. Peas are especially enjoyable because kids can eat the peas right off the vine.
Tips for Gardening with Toddlers
Gardening with toddlers is requires a little more supervision and direction than if you were gardening with older children but it can still be fun and engaging for your little one. The biggest thing to understand when gardening with young children is that they learn through their senses, so you will want to find ways for them to engage through as many as the five senses as possible.
When I was gardening with my three year old this summer she helped me plant the seeds in our raised garden beds, cover the seeds up with dirt and then we waited. On hot days she would help with the hose to water the garden and as things started to grow we’d walk out to the garden everyday and she’d tell me everything that we’d planted, smell the flowers and look for caterpillars.
Simple things like digging in the dirt, watering the plants, and looking for bugs are all age appropriate and engage different senses while exploring the garden. As things start to grow and are ready to pick depending on what you’ve chosen eating the bounty directly from the garden can is satisfying too. If the space is available you can also offer your toddler their very own garden container to grow their own vegetables.
Engaging Your Children in the Garden all Season
Depending on the age and attention span of your children there are tasks that they can participate in all season. Kids can help plant the garden in the spring, older kids can help weed, or pick pests such as slugs off produce. Younger kids will enjoy helping to water the garden during dry spells, or arranging flowers they’ve grown in a vase. As summer progresses and you begin to harvest from the garden kids can help with meal prep in the kitchen, slicing cucumbers or peeling carrots. And if you’ve planted the garden with plans to preserve some for winter kids can help with this as well. If you’ve planted a salsa garden for example the kids will enjoy helping you mix everything together.
The Benefits of Gardening with Kids
Getting your kids in the garden is beneficial to them as they are engaging with the surrounding environment, and learning about where their food comes from, a bonus is that you might be able to get your kids to eat what they’ve grown! When gardening with small children you just want to remember that their attention spans are generally short so you want to give age appropriate tasks and try to choose plants that are quick to germinate. The garden doesn’t need to be elaborate just a space that they can call their own and take ownership of.
Let me know how gardening with your kids is going below.