Gardening with children is a very rewarding experience, as long as you can get them out there in the first place! I have tons of tips about gardening for kids to encourage kids to go outside, get their hands in the dirt, and foster a love for nature.
Every gardening season that passes by, my Kiddo gets more interested in the garden. From my pregnancy to practically double digits, he’s grown up with gardening.
He calls himself a Mini Master Gardener, and I think it’s a well-deserved title.
Besides gardening more with me, he’s also taken a bigger interest in what I do here on Garden Therapy. I’ve always been respectful of his boundaries, only sharing what he wants me to share here and on social media.
But he’s been wanting to get involved! Last year, he joined me on CBC radio and even hosted a live event with me for Crayola about crafting with nature.
When we work with children, we learn how much it means to build connections with plants. I’m witnessing firsthand how Kiddo is falling in love with nature and how he wants to advocate for it.
Over the years, I’ve done many projects that are crafty and fun and can be used to get kids to engage in the garden. Here are my best tips for gardening for kids and how I raised Kiddo to be a Mini Master Gardener.
This post will cover…
- Gardening With Babies
- Creating a Play Garden
- Gardening for Kids
- Gardening Activities for Kids
- Maintaining the Garden
- Making Crafts from the Garden
- Gardening With Teenagers
- Frequently Asked Questions About Gardening for Kids
- More Tips for Gardening With Kids
Gardening With Babies
When I was writing my first book, Garden Made, Kiddo came along with me. I was pregnant when I signed the contract and began doing the projects, photographing them, and writing, all while Kiddo kicked inside of me. He was gardening with me even before he took his first breath!
After he was born, I would wrap Kiddo in the carrier or carry him on my back and carry him. I would use this precious time to do some gardening, allowing us fresh air and sunlight.
As he got older, I would plop him down on the blanket while I gardened. I would give him sensory things to work on, like a pumpkin with the top cut off so he could stick his fingers inside and touch the goo.
I also gave him things like kale flowers or any other elements from the garden that he could safely eat, smell, and play with.
At that time, I would get about five minutes of gardening in while he sat on the blanket. It wasn’t much, but it was time spent together outside.
It’s important to remember that you can get your daily gardening therapy in without actually gardening. All you need to do is engage with plants and soil or get outside and appreciate your space.
Creating a Play Garden
As Kiddo got older, I redesigned my space as a play garden. So often, we tell kids to stay out of the garden or to keep off the grass, but instead, I wanted to invite him in. Play gardens are spaces designed with tiny humans in mind, actively giving them space to engage with the garden.
I designed the space for Kiddo, but it was also beautiful and educational. To start, a play garden needs a ground they can trample on. You can use groundcover plants like clover or ajuga or stepping stones. I made my own hopscotch stepping stones to turn it into a game!
Next, fill in the garden with low plants that are decorative, sensory, and even edible. I love bunny tails and lamb’s ear for touching or structural plants like alliums and bleeding hearts. Edible flowers like violas and pansies are easy to grow, encourage pollinators, and are fun for children to look at.
To finish the garden, you can add structures. For Kiddo, I placed a table and chairs made of wood stumps. Kiddo also loved his digging pot. Rather than dig plants out in the garden, I gave him a pot filled with plastic dinosaurs that he could dig out, pour water on, and plant as he saw fit.
Gardening for Kids
When Kiddo reached school age, he started participating when I designed children’s learning gardens at his preschool and his afterschool program. He went from playing in the garden to playing an active role in planting and maintaining it.
Last spring, CBC asked both of us to come on the radio and talk about gardening. It sparked something in him. Not only is he interested in gardening, but teaching gardening at his age. He wants to share his knowledge with others!
As they get older, follow their lead. Your garden may not be the most beautifully designed and carefully curated, but it becomes a shared space for you and your kids. The more the kids get out there, the better.
Gardening Activities for Kids
Involve your kids from the very start, encouraging them to participate in the planning process. When I used to volunteer with learning gardens, we always started by laying out a blanket and bringing out the seed catalogues and leftover seeds packets.
Ask them what they want to plant. Are there any vegetables, herbs, fruit, and flowers they want to include again from last year? Or a plant they want to try growing? What do they like to eat from the grocery store, and is it possible to grow them in the garden?
The kids can cut out photos from the catalogues or even draw their favourites. You can even ask them to help you pick a location to plant them, using it as a teaching moment to talk about sun, water, soil, and temperature needs.
Kids always have boatloads of fun planting seeds and plants. Make sure to do this activity together, getting dirt under their fingernails.
Maintaining the Garden
Kids can get involved well after planting and planning. One of the best ways to do so is to make things a game. For instance, you can get them to help you with the weeding. First, identify the weeds, then start a weed-pulling contest to see who can pull the most weeds in a given time.
You can also ask them to help water the plants while you’re out tending to the garden. Any way you can get them outside, even if it’s just for five minutes, is a great way to get kids into gardening.
Making Crafts from the Garden
The garden is full of treasures for kids to get creative with. From pressing flowers to making windchimes, my favourite garden activities for kids involve making crafts using materials from the garden.
As a big crafter and do-it-yourselfer, I have many, many ideas for projects you can make with kids. Check them all out in this post.
Gardening With Teenagers
While Kiddo isn’t a teenager yet (and thank goodness. I’m not ready!), I love watching Kiddo grow up and become more involved with our shared garden. We’ve just moved, and in our new space, I know he will have a say in the kinds of things we plant and include in the backyard this time.
Give your kids room to grow. Designate a portion of the garden, whether a whole bed or a couple of containers, for them to grow their own garden. Let them select the plants, plant them, and be responsible for taking care of them.
The older they get, the more they can help you start seeds, transfer them outside, harvest, and take care of the space. Teach them how to make preserves and cook with their garden bounty!
If you teach kids to fall in love with plants, they’ll also fall in love with the earth. When I wrote the dedication for my book, The Regenerative Garden, I wrote it to Kiddo as the protector of the bees, grazer of flowers, and budding eco-activist.
When we encourage gardening for kids, we allow them to grow a passion for the natural world and become some of mother nature’s biggest advocates!
Frequently Asked Questions About Gardening for Kids
Being in nature has been proven to be immensely helpful for overall well-being and mental health. For kids in particular, gardening has been proven to enhance self-esteem, reduce stress, help relieve ADHA symptoms, create safer communities, and allow girls to be more confident. Plus, it gets them some fresh air and keeps them busy without using screens!
Everything! They can be involved every step of the way if you want them to. Get them to help you plan what to grow by flipping through seed catalogues, looking at seed packets in the store, heading to the garden centre together, or talking about your favourite vegetables and flowers.
Plant the plants together (kids love digging in the soil) and teach them how to water and weed. Match the gardening activities based on your kid’s ability, interests, and talents.
I always suggest starting by growing herbs or edible flowers. For herbs, they’re very easy to grow, fragrant, and edible. You get little input but a high reward, and they engage all the senses.
For more colour, edible flowers can look fun and enticing. And the fact that they’re edible adds an extra exciting component. You don’t even have to start them from seed, easily finding cheap edible flowers like violas, pansies, and nasturtiums at most garden centres.
Employ one or more of these tips for gardening for kids, and you’ll grow great memories along with tasty vegetables and colourful flowers.