Gardening With Kids
Gardening with kids can be fun and rewarding.
There is so much you can do with gardening, especially if you are also homeschooling. Gardening naturally encompasses science and math, but it would be very easy to incorporate writing, spelling, literature, and other areas.
Gardening is the ultimate hands-on experience for our kids!
Even though we know it’s worthwhile, sometimes we can feel overwhelmed or too tired to put in the effort. I completely relate to that and it’s understandable. As moms, we do so much with our days already, that adding in a project like gardening, can feel daunting.
I am here to help!
Keep reading for some tips and ideas on how to make gardening with kids enjoyable and memorable!
- Gardening with Preschoolers
- Kid Friendly Vegetable Garden
- Gardening Activities for Children
- Why is Gardening So Important for Children?
Gardening with Preschoolers
Doing anything with a preschooler can be a test of your energy and sanity!
While this age is so precious, it can also be difficult, and doing large projects with them can feel daunting. However, preschool-age children are eager to please you, generally cooperative, can physically do more than toddlers, and are better able to understand directions and reasoning.
Because of these developmental milestones, gardening with preschoolers can be rewarding for everyone. But, it doesn’t hurt to have a few tricks up your sleeves and to be prepared in advance.
Keep it Simple
I know you are anxious to start a large and fruitful garden.
Whether you’re new to gardening or new to having a preschooler, there are going to be adjustments you have to make to ensure a successful experience.
Think about it this way: you are making memories with your children, for you, and for them. Do you want those memories to be of you stressed out, yelling, or overwhelmed?
Or do you want those memories to be of happy, smiling, laughing, productive gardening?
This is what I tell myself when I set out to do something with my kids. It helps keep me in the right mindset and kids want to see us smiling and joyful.
So, keeping it simple is the number one key to successful gardening with preschoolers.
Instead of planning 4 vegetables to plant, maybe only stick with 2? How about making the garden smaller, or doing only container gardening this year?
Also, don’t forget about naps and eating. If your child is tired or hungry it will not go well, no matter how simple you keep it.
What are some things you can scale down a little bit to make this a successful, happy time?
Make it sensory
Preschoolers love to have their senses ignited.
Obviously, playing in the dirt is going to be a sensory experience. You can draw attention to their other senses with questions to help keep them interested.
For example, you can ask what the dirt smells like to them and if they like it. You can let them feel the difference between the seeds or plants you are planting or draw their attention to the visual differences of the seeds.
You can ask them about the colors they see on the flowers you’re planting (assuming you’re planting seedlings that are blooming).
Maybe there are sounds around you: a bird singing, the wind rustling, other children laughing. Draw their attention to this and have them listen for other sounds.
Expect dirt, chaos and mess
No matter how well you plan and prepare, it’s inevitable that something will not go according to plan. Maybe your preschooler has a bathroom accident and needs to take a bath, which means you can’t garden today.
Even if you get the gardening task accomplished, your child may have wanted to run around the whole time or accidentally pulled up a plant they thought was a weed.
Remember to be mentally prepared for these unexpected departures and to relish in this time with your little kids anyway.
The sun and moon revolve around you right now in their eyes, and every single minute is meant to be enjoyed, even if they aren’t minutes you planned for. Try to stay relaxed and flexible.
Best vegetables for preschoolers to grow
Here is a list of the best vegetables to grow with your preschooler. I chose these based on how fast they germinate and how much a typical preschooler would enjoy eating them.
Free Printables for Preschoolers
Just in case you want to include a garden theme school week in your homeschool, I made some FREE garden printables for your preschool (or Kindergarten) child.
I hope you enjoy this little garden workbook!
Kid Friendly Vegetable Garden
With older children, you can do much more, although your biggest battle will be their attitude. This is where your past relationship-building and child training come in handy!
Don’t forget that kids are capable of a lot more than we give them credit for. Give them tasks that you think may be a little challenging and watch them rise to the occasion! It will give them a huge boost in confidence and ensure they will want to garden with you in the future.
Even working with older children, you need to have a plan in place and be prepared.
As with preschoolers, all kids are unpredictable and impatient and they won’t want to sit around while you fiddle with the seed packet, wondering how to space out your plants, or how deep to plant the seed.
Knowing these details ahead of time can help ensure this experience is positive for everyone. Remember to ask yourself, “What kind of memories do I want to create here?”
This helps me so much!
How to Plan a Garden
This section will be about planning a garden with kids in mind, so it will be a simplified version of garden planning.
My free garden planner for kids will help you keep your older children organized and on task. You can also use this for handwriting, grammar and critical thinking/math lessons if you are homeschooling your children.
Decide on the type of garden you want to have: container garden, traditional row garden, square foot garden, raised beds.
Next, think about the size. Even if you want a large garden, maybe your children only help you with a section or with a certain plant. Try not to overwhelm them with too big of a garden. Simple is always better and ensures success.
Once you figure this out, make a supply list and sketch out your garden on paper. I have printables to help you with this!
Figure out when you want to do this and get it on the calendar. Make sure you pick a day that you can devote to gardening since children move slower and it will take longer than you anticipate. You don’t want to rush through this, you want to savor these moments with your kiddos!
Decide on responsibilities you want your children to have and assign them. You can ask your children ahead of time which tasks they would like to do if you want to.
Some ideas are:
- Digging the holes for platns/seedlings
Or you could divide up the tasks based on plants. For example, maybe one child wants to be in charge of the herb section, or maybe another child only wants to plant the tomatoes because that’s his favorite veggie.
So they would do all of the above tasks, but only for that vegetable or herb.
This may seem unnecessary, but things will go much smoother if you plan these out ahead of time. Letting our children know what to expect, also helps with attitude and cooperation.
Which Vegetables to Grow
Which vegetables or plants to grow is always a good question, especially for beginner gardeners. Even if you are experienced, your children aren’t and sticking with quick-growing vegetables and pretty flowers is a good idea.
Another tip is to think about what your family likes to eat and actually eats. Be honest with yourself.
You don’t want to waste time planting things your family won’t eat, although the experience is always good.
Here is a list of vegetables to get you started with gardening with your kids.
Peppers–bell and hot (ie: jalapeno)
Sunflower (don’t put this in the middle of your garden)
Kids Gardening Tools
I actually have strong opinions about this, so bear with me.
As a mom who has been gardening and homesteading with her kids for 20 years, I have found that tools made for children are not worth buying.
They are usually more flimsy, don’t hold up and don’t work as well as regular tools. These gardening tools that I’m talking about are usually found at stores like Target in the toy section, or in the gardening section.
They typically come in bright colors and may have cute faces printed on them, like eyes on the shovel. While they are adorable and tempting to buy, please refrain from purchasing these tools for your kids.
They will cause frustration and tears, which will not make for a fun time.
Instead, go to your local Tractor Supply, Home Depot or Ace Hardware and buy regular tools for them. I understand that the handles won’t be the perfect size, but you can modify the tasks if needed.
Usually an average 8 yr old will be able to handle a regular size shovel, hoe, hand rake, or trowel.
Here is a list of kids gardening tools:
Gardening Activities for Children
Whether you’re homeschooling or not, here are some activities you can do with your kids to help facilitate their love for gardening.
These are meant for K-middle school and can be adapted based on your children’s needs.
I also kept it very simple for you to be able to execute and enjoy.
Sensory boxes: fill any size plastic tub with garden-type toys and supplies. You can use anything from dirt and water to sand. If you want to keep things a little cleaner, you can use rice. Put in little trinkets, small erasers with a garden theme, toy watering cans, things to pour and play with, like spoons and funnels. You could also give them a packet of seeds to “plant.”
In the garden:
- kids can help mark off the squares in your square foot garden (if you choose this plan)
- figure out how much soil to fill the boxes/containers
- area, volume, multiplication
- help decide how big to make the boxes or garden
- reading ruler, area, multiplication
Crafts: paint with leaves, flowers, or the vegetables you grow. All ages will enjoy this one!
Decorate or paint the outside of the containers you’re using.
Paint rocks or popsicle sticks to mark your seeds so you don’t forget what you planted.
Why is Gardening So Important for Children?
Fresh Air and Exercise
There are many benefits of gardening for children.
The most obvious would be the fresh air and exercise. In these days of screens and indoor play parks, it’s nice to get out into the sunshine and work our bodies.
It will help them sleep better, as well.
Nurture a Respect for Nature
When you spend any amount of time outside, you start to appreciate nature more. It surrounds us all day, yet we don’t always take the time to notice it.
But working in a garden, you see the slugs, the worms, you learn about their purposes.
You see the roots of the plants you’re transplanting and it reminds you of how nature all works together.
We all have a purpose, even a plant, and gardening reminds us of this fact. If you really want your children to appreciate nature, teach them to garden. It’s an easy way to help them understand these truths.
Children Learn About the Food Supply and Food Chain
Learning about our food supply used to be a back burner topic. Nobody really cared much, we just went to the grocery store and that was it.
But in our current environment, with supply chain issues, pandemics, and global unrest, it is imperative to understand where our food comes from.
I think now more than ever, as nobody knows what the future holds for us.
When we hear phrases like, “Buy Local,” our kids don’t know what that means. When we garden with our children, we can have some of these “boring” conversations with them in a more interesting way, showing them first hand.
It may even lead to more food independence for your family and you can instill this value into your child, as well.
We all need to have multiple food sources these days and a garden is a fantastic way to achieve that.
Thank you for being here with me today! I hope I helped you learn more about gardening with your kids. Let me know if you have any other questions.
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