Seven Tips To Get Children Involved in the Garden

Having four small children presents a unique set of challenges. Number one being how to accomplish tasks around the house and in the garden. After trying a number of different ways to distract my kiddos, I realized that the best thing for all parties was to include them.

Garden With Children

Yes, it’s challenging at first, but the long-term rewards include the ability to get things done when needed (and with help), and kids who are confident in their ability to do things themselves.

Given that it’s that time of year, I thought I’d share some of my favorite tips for gardening with kids:

1. Give them jobs

A friend pointed out recently that when her kids get whiny and start causing trouble, what they really need is a job. I’ve found the same is true for my kids, especially if I’m working outside and they decide to start throwing dirt at each other.

There are a number of jobs kids can be given in the garden, from weeding or planting, to killing potato bugs and spreading mulch.

I’ve found that I need to explain the job, show them how to do it, supervise it for a bit, then let them at it. (With realistic expectations based on their age and abilities, of course.)

2. Give them their own space

If you have enough garden space, I suggest setting a little bit aside for your kids to plant whatever they want. Even if it’s in a small pot or one strip along the side of the fence, it’s empowering for kids to plant seeds as they see fit.

It’s fun for them (and you) to see what comes up as the season progresses and talk about why they chose to plant what they did and if they’d make any changes the next year.

3. Encourage team work

This year as we transplanted some veggies, I had a great time watching my kids work together without my direction. After trying to do things on their own, they decided to band together and create a planting process.

The younger kids were in charge of scooping compost, while the older kids dug holes and gently planted the peppers and tomatoes. I can assure you this doesn’t ordinarily happen, so I watched and thanked them for their excellent team work.

4. Involve them in the whole process

Kids can do much more than just pull weeds and plant the occasional vegetable. At the beginning of the year, I ask them what they want to grow in the garden. By spring time they usually have lots of ideas.

My kids also love coming with me to pick out seeds and plants and help plant whatever we get. As you can imagine, they’re also very enthusiastic waterers and when it’s time to harvest, they’re just as excited as I am to pick whatever is ripe.

5. Kid-sized tools

One investment we’ve made is in kid-sized gloves and a few small hand trowels. It’s a lot easier for our kids to help in the garden when they have tools that are the appropriate size.

They also get the opportunity to be responsible with their tools and make sure they don’t get lost or ruined.

6. Talk about ways to use the harvest

When we pick the veggies, I like to ask my kids what they think we should do with them and they’re quick to reply. While pizza is the number one suggestion, they usually have other ideas for how to use our bounty, including sharing the excess with friends.

7. Educate

There are countless opportunities to teach kids in the garden. We home school our kids and use the garden as a means to teach about plant identification, nutrition, sustainability, herbal remedies and so on.

Even if you don’t home school your kids, there are many valuable lessons to be learned in the garden that they won’t get a chance to learn elsewhere.

What tips can you share for gardening with kids?

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Comments

  1. I work at a nursery. We have classes from time to time for children. The most popular one is the one on Insects in the Garden. They get a little packet of 100 Ladybugs and/or a pod of Praying Mantis.

    I like to show them the insides of Orchids when they come into the store and tell them it’s what’s on the inside that’s THE most beautiful thing of an Orchid. Also, they get a kick out of Torenia’s – when you look on the inside, you’ll see a white “wishbone” hence the name “Wishbone Plant.” Very cool.

  2. Hi, I have only just discovered that my kids actually like gardening. We helped them build a nature pond and plant some bits the last few weeks and they are so enthusiastic. I am stealing all your ideas. One things my kids love to do is sweep the patio. They can do this for hours and hours. They also enjoy watering the patio. So, it looks nice way more often than it ever did before.