In today’s world, it’s more important than ever to get kids outside and away from their computer screens. Spending time outdoors is one of the best ways for kids to be active, freely explore their surroundings and learn about the world around them. A popular way to encourage your child’s sense of outdoor wonder and creativity is to help them grow and maintain their own garden! Introduce them to flowers, fruits and vegetables as early as the age of four and teach them the basics to start encouraging good habits.
To make the most out of your child’s garden, learn what crops work best for your child’s age, the seasons and your needs as a family. Tend to flowers that will make up the perfect arrangement for your dining room table or nurture different vegetables to use in your family dinners. You can also play garden games to hold your child’s interest during the growing season! Keep reading to learn how to get your child prepared and excited for gardening!
What to plant
Flowers, vegetables and fruits — oh my! There are so many options for filling your garden in every season that it can be overwhelming. While there are many unique plants and flowers to choose from, start with a basic, low-maintenance crop that can thrive both indoors and outdoors to ease into the gardening process. For kids, stick to crop choices that will hold their attention through every stage of the plant’s growth.
Fruits / Vegetables / Herbs
Potatoes (Early spring): Harvesting this staple vegetable is like a mini treasure hunt. Your little one will enjoy getting their hands dirty while digging in deep to find the potatoes.
Carrots (Spring/summer): Whether your child is a fan of this vegetable or not, they will love pulling them out of the ground like their favorite cartoon characters! Plant a mix of big and small varieties so you can see results more quickly, as some carrots tend to have a longer growing season.
Lettuce (Spring/early fall): Harvested in less than a month, lettuce is a quick crop that can hold the interest of even the most active little ones. Try a mesclun mix for a variety in color and texture.
Radishes (Spring/early fall): These little red globes are known for being extremely fast growers! They are usually harvestable within a month, so your child can see their hard work come alive pretty quickly!
Green Beans (Spring/early fall): The bush variety of this vegetable is perfect for kids who are still growing themselves! Green beans do not grow very tall, so they are at a good height for young ones to keep a close eye on!
Strawberries (Spring/early fall): Also known as “nature’s candy,” home-grown strawberries are a sweeter version than what you’ll find in the store. Kids can pluck these straight off the vine for an afternoon snack!
Basil (Summer): This herb is easy to grow indoors and out! If you want your little one to have something to tend to year-round create an indoor herb garden with a variety of plants.
Watermelon (Summer): Grow the perfect refreshing summertime snack right in your backyard! Turn growing watermelon into an interactive math lesson by having kids track how much they weigh.
Mint (Spring): Freshen up your garden (or kitchen) with this sweet smelling, multi-use herb. Enjoy mint all year round, as it can flourish both in a garden or indoor in a pot!
Flowers / Plants
Sunflowers (Early spring): These flowers grow pretty quickly, so kids will get a kick out of watching how quickly they change. Help them to replant the seeds or spread them out as a treat for the birds!
Lamb’s Ear (Early spring): Kids will love the fun and furry texture of this easy-to-care for perennial. In addition to its fuzzy appearance, this plant can also be used for relief for painful bee stings.
Snapdragons (Early spring): This flower comes in a variety of colors and sizes that can easily mesh with any garden layout. Kids will enjoy pinching the blossoms to make the “dragon’s” mouth open.
Hens & Chicks (Summer): This succulent requires little maintenance and little water so make sure your little one isn’t too generous with the watering can. While it doesn’t grow very tall, this succulent does grow up to 20 inches wide!
Daisies (Fall or early spring): Children love picking and touching flowers, and this eye catching flower is great for this purpose. Daisies will continue to grow and produce more flowers after a few of the best and brightest are picked.
Butterfly Bush (Fall or early spring): This large shrub grows up to 12 feet and boasts clusters of purple, pink and white flowers. Keep a close eye on this bush, as a variety of insects and butterflies will regularly stop by to visit!
Garden mums (Fall or early spring): Plant these flowers to welcome in the autumn season as they bloom in shades of bronze, orange and gold.
Lavender (Fall): Along with it’s pleasing scent and vibrant color, lavender is a great option for both indoor and outdoor gardens. Use this plant along walkways or in a highly trafficked area to take advantage of it’s fresh scent.
Milkweed (Early spring): This host plant is perfect for attracting butterflies to your garden! Kids will see an abundance of caterpillars crawling around as this is the only food Monarch caterpillars and butterflies will eat.
What Not To Plant
While some dangerous plants are easily identifiable by their colors and thorns, it’s important to teach kids what plants are okay to touch and which to avoid. Be sure to look at an online database of toxic plants before any digging and planting takes place!
Stinging Nettle: Although it looks harmless, this plant is full of surprises. Be wary of touching these, as the stem and hair on the leaves give off a stinging sensation when they comes into contact with skin.
Roses: As pretty as these flowers are when fully bloomed, their spiky thorns can pierce even the toughest hands. Their bright colors can attract curious little ones, so keep these away from your child’s garden to avoid any temptation to touch.
Pokeweed: Similar in appearance to blueberries, pokeweed should not be planted in an area where children play. Although the younger version of the plant can be edible, the mature plant and berries are toxic.
Belladonna: The glossy black berries and purple bell-shaped flowers on this plant are pretty to look at, but extremely damaging to the body. Keep this plant away from kids (and pets!) as it’s extremely toxic when consumed.
Japanese Barberry: While it’s extremely popular with American landscapers, Japanese Barberry should not be anywhere near your garden or child. Not only are they covered with barbs, but they are a favorite hiding spot of black-legged ticks.
Kids’ Gardening Tools
When it comes to tending to and maintaining the garden, it’s important to have the right tools for the job! Create a beginner’s tool bucket for your young one. You should include:
- Small shovel
- Small rake
- Watering can
Opt for sturdy gardening tools made of metal or a durable material, instead of plastic (which can wear down faster and break). Let your time in the garden double as dress-up and invest in a pair of rubber boots and an apron to look the part!
Devote a corner of the yard as your child’s space to encourage them to have a sense of ownership over their garden. Depending on your crop choice, make space for a section of your yard that can work for plants that thrive in both covered or uncovered areas. Keep in mind that some plants do well in full sun while others bloom with less light. Label certain spaces with decorated signs to keep the space organized and easy to identify.
Create a schedule
Help instill good habits by working with your child to create a schedule to care and maintain their crops. Set specific days and times to water, clear weeds and other small tasks to help their plants reach their full potential.
Make a calendar in bright colors to hang on the refrigerator or in their bedroom as a reminder for their weekly garden responsibilities. You can set this schedule based on the planting and blooming season for each flower. A gardening schedule is not only helpful for establishing routines and responsibilities, but also for spending quality time together in the sunshine!
Journal about it
After a day in the garden, have your child write about what they did or anything they observed. If you have younger kids, encourage them to draw a picture of their favorite activity or what the garden looks like. Help them write a sentence under the drawing.
Use what they grow
Include the fruits from your child’s hard work around your home for everyone to enjoy! Make brightly colored arrangements for your dinner table or as a surprise gift for their teacher. Slice up fresh strawberries from their garden for a sweet touch to a summer salad or use their potatoes as a side for a big family dinner. By using their crops in the home, you’ll build confidence in your child and and maybe even inspire them to help out in other areas of the home as well! Teaching your child to garden helps to instill good habits. Plus they’ll learn how to be patient and care for living things.
Unique Garden Ideas
One of the best parts about gardening is how creative you can get with the placement and crops! Here are a few kid-friendly ideas for building a garden that is not only fruitful, but fun to look at!
Kids love pizza and what better way to introduce gardening than growing herbs and ingredients for their pizza!
You can use these items for pizza toppings or sauce: basil, parsley, oregano, onions, tomatoes, peppers. All of these plants are fun and easy for kids to tend to and grow. Be sure to encourage regular watering and weeding to grow the tastiest toppings possible!
Appeal to more than one of their senses with a sensory garden! Include bright blooms such as sunflowers, marigolds, zinnias and more! Plant flowers, succulents and herbs into sections separated by sense. This not only makes a pretty addition to any garden, but teaches kids how to organize and classify plants using their senses.
With a little imagination and a splash of creativity, it’s easy to create a miniature-sized, magical world right in your backyard. Include small decorative pieces, such as a tiny birdhouse, pebbles and twinkling lights to build a fairy’s dream playland. This whimsical addition to any garden will set your kids’ imagination on fire!
Take the chore aspect of gardening and turn it into a friendly competition. From watering to weeding, there are plenty of ways to spruce up the traditional gardening responsibilities!
Flower Rangers: Quick! Save your blooms from the overgrown weeds that threaten their existence! Instruct your child on what a weed looks like and then set them loose to remove every weed they find!
Who’s That Bloom: Give your child a checklist of the flowers in the garden, along with a few easy-to-spot characteristics. This game encourages classification and memorization skills!
Petal Portraits: Let your child go out and pick a few of their favorite flowers. Next, set your child up with non-toxic paint to dip the petals in and use the flower prints create their own artwork on paper. Be sure to hang their creation on the refrigerator for all to see!
Gardening is not only a great way to get kids to enjoy the outdoors, but to also build lifelong skills they’ll use in the years to come. From edible crops to bright florals, kids can easily plant, grow and maintain their own special garden in the safety of your backyard. Set a schedule or organize games to keep their excitement high during the growing season. Use the tips above to get your kid started and ready to hit the ground digging!