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Ways to Get Kids in the Garden

By Edited Jun 9, 2015 7 12

Did you know that a carrot plant looks like a feathery fern, with no orange in sight? Well, you probably do, but I'll bet most kids have never seen a carrot growing... that is, unless they've spent time with you in the garden.

Busy parents know how hard it can be to find time for gardening with children. When children are young, it can be difficult to hold their interest long enough for you to put in a row of peas. As they get older, their interests vary and their attention wanders. But when it's time to dig the soil, plant the seeds, water the plants and, finally, harvest those fresh vegetables, getting the kids involved can be rewarding and fun.

Ways to Get Kids in the Garden - picking beans

Gardening can also be an invaluable educational experience for children. You'd be surprised, for instance, at how many kids don't know that the edible part of a potato grows underground. And that it's actually a plant, with leaves! Children are fascinated with growing things, and you can use that fascination to help them learn about the foods they eat every day.

Here are a few tips to foster enthusiasm for gardening in young children:

Make the Garden a Place for Play

Who says gardens have to exist in straight rows? Fun shapes and plant combinations are a fun way to get kids excited about spending time in the garden. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Bean towers make a great living fort for kids' play. Just set 8-foot wood or bamboo poles in a circular shape and tie at the top with twine. Then plant pole beans at the bases of the poles, and watch the viney hideout grow!
  • A pizza garden is a fun way to design your planting. Divide a large circular garden space into wedges. Then plant bush tomatoes, bell peppers and eggplants in the "slices", surrounded by yellow marigolds for "crust".
  • Snake gardens appeal to a child's creativity. If you have an open plot, create a long, winding raised hill and help your child plant his or choice of vegetables and flowers.

Give Children their Own Garden Space

You can encourage your children in the garden by inviting them to take an active part in growing vegetables at home. Reserve a small section of the garden for planting with children. This can be a corner of your own vegetable garden, one permanent raised bed, or a few growing containers arranged together. Let your child have a hand in choosing what to plant: ask what his or her favorite vegetables are.

Here are some popular choices for kids to grow:

    • Radishes are rewarding - they grow very quickly and are ready to eat in as little as three weeks.
    • Spinach is easy, fast-growing, and can be eaten right out of the garden.
    • Cucumbers, especially the miniature type, are great for young gardeners. Look for a variety without spines.
    • Pole beans or snap peas are fun to grow on a trellis or fence, and kids love to snack on pods they find the pods on the vine.
Ways to Get Kids in the Garden - child picking tomatoes
  • Cherry tomatoes are irresistible to most kids, and can also be eaten right off the vine. Buy greenouse plants or start seeds early inside. One or two plants would provide enough fruit for a child's garden space.
  • Pumpkins have big seeds, so they're easy for little fingers to plant. Pumpkins are best for a large space - their vines can quickly overrun a small garden.
  • Zucchini are a good small-space alternative to pumpkins. The fruits are best eaten small, but it's fun to watch how large they can grow.
Ways to Get Kids in the Garden - child with sunflowers

Flowers are a fun addition to a vegetable garden for kids. Children love to touch and smell flowers, and even pick them to give to mom or dad!

  • Nasturtiums have their very large seeds - they're very easy to plant and will grow anywhere.
  • Snapdragons, with their unique shape, are fun for kids to grow. Buy greenhouse plants rather than seeds, and have children help you transplant.
  • Sunflowers are always a favorite choice - the taller the better!

Buy the Right Garden Tools for Kids

A sure way to a successful garden with children is to give them the right tools for the job. Child-sized tools are best for little hands - look for authentic, smaller versions of the "real" tools mom and dad use.

  • A set of  garden tools - including a spade, hoe, garden rake and leaf rake - is a great starter for any child in the garden. Kids love to help out by digging the soil and raking it smooth at planting time.
Toysmith Kids Big Tool Set
Amazon Price: $26.99 $21.50 Buy Now
(price as of Jun 9, 2015)
  • A sifter and watering can are popular tools for little gardeners. Children can use a sifter to sort rocks out of garden soil or finished compost. And kids love to help water the garden - a small watering can is great for when the garden is dry. You may find that plastic beach toys are more inexpensive, but tools designed for garden use are usually sturdier and will have a longer life.
  • A child-size wheelbarrow is a great addition to the tool shed - it comes in handy for larger-size jobs. Anything from grass clippings, compost, weeds, or even a few stones can be transported by an eager child with a wheelbarrow.
True Temper KPWB10 Real Tools For Kids Lil' Wheelbarrow With Poly Tray
Amazon Price: $39.99 $26.25 Buy Now
(price as of Jun 9, 2015)

Kids Have Fun Helping You in the Garden

What's the best, freshest way to eat your veggies? Right off the vine, of course! Even those kids who avoid greens at the dinner table may see vegetables differently when they see them growing in the garden. Invite your child to help you pick peas or beans - they may eat more then they put in the basket, but they'll get their daily dose of those healthy vegetables!

Whether it's the learning experience you're after, or just the freedom to get a little weeding done, the key is to make the garden a fun place - a place where kids want to be. Your child will thrive in a healthy environment. And, who knows, you may even be cultivating a future gardener!

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Comments

May 12, 2013 2:47am
wordspeller
Hi there, this is one of the best articles I have read on InfoBarrel in awhile. Excellent writing about a creative gardening topic. Thumbs up from me!
May 12, 2013 4:16am
claudslewis
Really good ideas for kids gardens. My daughter's favorite would be the cherry tomatoes and she would not want to share!
May 12, 2013 5:26am
chbamey
Thank you for the kind words, wordspeller and claudslewis. I had a lot of fun writing this article! My kids spend a lot of time in the garden with me--their favorites are the cherry tomatoes and snap peas :)
May 12, 2013 6:20am
iamsy
Great ideas, not just for kids but also beginner gardeners! I grew some miniature cucumbers last year. They're really easy, the flowers are quite pretty and kids would probably have lots of fun growing them too.
May 12, 2013 6:56am
chbamey
Thanks, iamsy. Good point, in that these ideas are not for kids only! Thanks for reading.
May 12, 2013 1:18pm
andrewagreen
Good article - well done.
May 12, 2013 2:56pm
KimChaos
I don't have any kids and I still enjoyed the read. I might do some of these things myself. Great article.
May 12, 2013 6:03pm
chbamey
Thanks, KimChaos and andrewagreen. Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for reading.
May 13, 2013 2:58pm
Marlando
Absolutely a top topic and important insights. I love the article so two thumbs up and yep, a rating.
May 13, 2013 5:47pm
chbamey
Marlando, I appreciate the feedback -- and thanks for the rating!
Apr 21, 2014 8:53pm
shar-On
A great article for anyone to learn from, the designing of a garden is very important too. I remember as a kid mum grew the peas and we used to pinch them and eat and of course we always said no we didnt touch them, but lets be honest, peas are a good way to get kids eating fresh vegies and healthy too. thumbs up on great writing.
Jun 19, 2014 6:16pm
chbamey
I have memories like that too--few carrots ever made it through the summer in our garden growing up. Thanks for reading!
Jun 19, 2014 6:16pm
chbamey
This comment has been deleted.
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