Inside: Gardening with kids has so many benefits. Gardening develops an appreciation for the Earth. It also encourages an eco-friendly lifestyle. Involve your kids in gardening and encourage science and healthy eating all summer long. Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link I might make a small commission always at no cost to you.
Building a Garden with Kids
Gardening with kids has so many benefits. Gardening is a fun solo endeavor for anyone, but when you involve your kids, it will turn into a fun family event that will last all summer long. Kids love to play outside and want to discover the world around them. Teaching kids how to grow and nurture a garden teaches them to care for the Earth. It also encourages local eating and will help them with healthier habits later on in life. Did I mention it is fun? I mean really fun!
What can you Grow in a Garden for Kids?
First, let your child help you pick out what they want to grow. If you start off with spinach or kale, which are very easy to grow, their first thoughts are going to be “are you going to make me eat that?” It’s better to let them in on the process from the beginning. What do they like to eat? Do they want pumpkins for Thanksgiving pie and for Halloween jack o’ lanterns? Kids will be more enthusiastic about the gardening project if you let them help pick out the foods and flowers you will be growing in their little part of your garden.
Small hands will do better with bigger seeds. The following small list is a guide to bigger seeds that grow fast and will keep your child’s interest longer. These plants grow faster and produce fruits (or seeds, in the case of the sunflowers) fairly quickly and consistently throughout the growing season.
Easy to Plant Seeds when Gardening with Kids
Guide your children towards easier to start plants such as sunflowers which will help bring bees and birds to your garden. These pollinators are an integral part of the gardening process. There are some cons to planting sunflowers but you can decide if they are worth it in your garden. I love them! There are so many sizes and color varieties. Because many are very tall with huge flowers, they could block the sun from other plants. Many people plant them around the edges of their garden so they are near enough to attract the pollinators but far enough away to not cause harm to other plants.
Pole beans and snap peas are another great starter for children as they grow heartily and quickly. When you harvest them, you can plant some of the seeds. They will grow more beans, allowing you to have a supply throughout the growing season.
Radishes and marigolds are also great starters as they grow quickly and are hearty plants that can endure some rough handling from little hands while they learn. Carrots, zucchini, and pumpkins all fall into this category as well.
Helping Kids Garden by Starting from Seeds
If you are starting from seeds, teaching kids how to plant, water, and germinate the seeds is an important first step. They get to watch as the first seedlings appear and this will get them wondering how that happened and what comes next. Check out this great book, Plant Life Cycles by Mara Grunbaum (affiliate link). Written for kids in grades 3 – 5, it follows the life journey of many plants. It will give kids a better understanding of what is happening to the seeds in their garden. For the very young try, From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons (affiliate link). She introduces very young readers to the processes of pollination, seed formation, and germination.
Showing your kiddos how to get the soil just right and what to start the seeds off in is another rewarding experience. You can easily start with seedling starters from any big box store now but you can also create your own DIY starter kits. This is a great project for those bored little ones during Spring Break right before the planting season starts. Try making these using newspaper to encourage recycling! When the plant is ready to be put in the garden, flower pot and all can be “planted”. You are less likely to damage delicate roots this way.
Buying seedlings from your local farmer’s market or nursery is another affordable way to start your young gardener’s experience. It is a fun trip and you can show them how to pick out the heartiest looking seedlings. They also learn the cost of buying plants. As well, you can explain how to make sure your soil is just right for growing plants and pick up the necessary additives so your garden will continue nourishing your plants. When you are helping your little one pick out seedlings, look to make sure they are hearty and not flowering to ensure you get the most from your plants.
When do you Start Gardening with Kids?
While kids of all ages are welcome to help with gardening, there are some basic skills that are important to have (or learn) before digging in. I recommend starting your children around kindergarten. This is a great age to get kids started and interested in gardening. At this age, kids are willing to help and are absorbing all of the knowledge they can. They also have the motor skills to handle seedlings without demolishing them. But, if you start with toddlers or preschoolers, you can give them small jobs to help. They can learn along the way and improve their skills.
Time of Year to Start Gardening with Kids
While it depends on the gardening zone you live in, most areas will benefit beginning garden preparations in February. This is especially true if you are going to start with seeds. Let your children pick what they want to grow and get the seeds started indoors. This is a great way to teach kids about the germination process and how growing seeds work. Starting from seeds lets you and your child follow the entire lifecycle from seed to sprout to flower and finally the fruit.
Allow your kids to help with pulling weeds and adding mulch to the soil also. As kids, most of us loved getting our hands dirty – our kids are no different! When it is time to plant the sprouts outside, let them in on that fun, too. Teach them how big of a hole to dig and how to water a seedling for the best results. When you’re done planting, you’ll both likely have dirty clothes. Help take further care of the Earth by using an environmentally friendly laundry soap like Tru Earth laundry strips to get out stubborn soil stains(affiliate link).
Children, like adults, love to see the fruits of their labor. Allowing your children in on the process gives them something to feel proud about and maybe even to show off. This is a great time to bond and connect with your children while teaching them a life skill they will keep with them forever. Teach them to respect the Earth and eat healthy. Your children will cherish the moments you spend together in the garden, even after they’re grown and have kids of their own.
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