Gardening is the perfect family activity—if only every kid were interested. To start your family on your gardening adventure, here are five simple and fun ways for kids to help in the garden this spring.
There are dozens of benefits to gardening: fresh food, self-sufficiency, and physical exercise, to name a few. However, even greater than being outdoors and helping the environment are the benefits gardening has for kids.
According to “Gardening with Young Children Helps Their Development,” an article written by Michigan State University, gardening can help children improve fine motor skills; receive critical sensory stimulation; improve literacy and directional skills; develop intellectual skills such as memorization, analysis, and prediction; and build relationships. And that doesn’t even touch on the love they will have for nature and growing their own food.
To start sowing and reaping these benefits, let’s make gardening fun for kids.
Draw Garden Labels
The most important part of a garden is what you’re going to put in it. Lots of planning will go into what kind of plants you’re going to grow and where you want to put them. If you want to interest kids in gardening, this is the best place to start.
Involve your kids in the planning process, and let them choose plants that they find interesting. Here are some great sensory plants from Better Health:
- Touch: woolly lamb’s ear, succulents (such as aloe vera), bottlebrush species, and snapdragons
- Taste: basil, strawberries, peas, rosemary, carrots, cherry tomatoes
- Smell: jasmine, sweet peas, lavender, pelargoniums, native mint bush, lemon balm
- Color: daffodils, rainbow chard, marigolds, pansies, sunflowers
- Sound: corn, bamboo, grasses
Once you’ve decided on your plants, have your kids draw some garden labels. These can be fun and colorful, and you can make them together. When it’s time to put the labels in the garden, you can take it one step further and let your kids decide where each plant should go. By giving your kids a say, they will feel like it’s their garden too.
Buy Kid-Sized Tools
You wouldn’t send your kids to school without pencil and paper, right? If they’re going to be gardening, having their own set of tools would be a great way to get them involved.
Not only will it be safer to have tools that are the appropriate size for your kids, but it will also be fun and exciting for kids because they can be just like Mom and Dad. You can let them pick out their tools or even personalize them in some way with pens and tape.
Give Kids Small Jobs
Whether it’s watering every day, weeding, picking flowers, planting seeds, or preparing healthy food, kids should have some responsibilities in the garden to keep them interested. If they’re not ready to manage it on their own, start small:
- While you’re picking the fruits and vegetables, have your kids clean them in a bucket of clean water.
- While you’re pruning, have your kids pull weeds next to you.
- After you’ve demonstrated, let your kids go around with an adjustable watering wand on the gentlest setting.
- Give your kids a ruler and let them dig holes for seeds or let them smooth the dirt back over the holes you’ve dug.
Letting your children help out with small jobs will give them a sense of responsibility while they learn gardening, motor, and cognitive skills.
Give Kids Their Own Garden Space
Just like a small pet, plants can be used to teach kids responsibility and care. By giving kids their own garden space, you are giving them a chance to take care of a living being. They will learn its needs and wants, and will begin to understand concepts like time management, compassion, and diligence, which can later be applied to the relationships your kids build.
The garden space you give your kids doesn’t have to be big. It can be just a container you keep on the windowsill or a few pots. The important part is making sure your child knows they are responsible for those plants and guiding them through taking care of it.
Play Games with Raking, Weeding, Planting, and Picking
When it’s all said and done, kids might still find gardening kind of boring. The best way to get through this without them crying or complaining is to liven it up. Turn every gardening task into a game:
- Tell your kids to make fun designs in the dirt when they rake or lay down mulch and fertilizer.
- Make the tasks a race. The first kid to finish wins!
- Have your kids see how many rocks or bugs they can find while they work in the dirt.
- Turn watering into a dance contest. The kid with the coolest watering moves wins a prize!
For more ideas on how to involve your kids, read the article “How Kids Can Help in the Garden” by fruitsandveggies.org.
If you’re a gardening beginner, check out Breaking the Grid to learn the gardening essentials.
For more ways to make parenting fun, check out our book 115 Hacks and Hacktivities for Mini Humans.
Books about Gardening
- Breaking the Grid
- No-Till Gardening
- Successful Gardening in Utah
- All-Natural Aquaponic Lawns, Garden, and Vertical Gardens
Children’s Books about Gardening
Shaelyn Topolovec earned a BA in editing and publishing from BYU, worked on several online publications, and joined the Familius family. Shae is currently an editor and copywriter who lives in California’s Central Valley.