Getting your kids in the garden may sound a little scary… what if they pull up my plants… what if they don’t do things the way I like… what if my garden looks messy when they are finished… But WHAT IF we laid aside the what ifs and enjoyed gardening with our kids?? I have laid out 9 tips for gardening with kids that will help you get them in the garden and let go of the control just a bit.
Where We Go Wrong When Gardening with Kids
We often make mistakes when trying to involve our children in our gardening activities.
- We rush them.
- We are impatient.
- We micromanage everything they do.
- We make gardening a chore.
9 Tips for Gardening with Kids
1. Be patient
When your kids are in the garden with you, try to be calm and patient.
Teach them what they need to know, help them when they need it, but don’t rush them through their tasks. Allow them to work at their own pace.
If you are in a rush or have something that needs to be done without error, try to redirect them to another garden activity- like the garden scavenger hunt found in the Member Resource Library– while you take care of your tasks.
And don’t get angry with them when you find that your garden gloves are filled with pecans…
2. Give them their own space
It is important that the kids have their own space to garden in. This could be a raised bed, a spot in the yard, or even a bucket or planting container.
Providing your kids with their own dedicated garden space has a few benefits:
- It fosters ownership and accountability.
- It keeps them from messing with the plants in your space.
- It allows them to feel more independent and responsible.
3. Give them a say
When children feel heard, they are much more likely to enjoy the activity that they are involved in. Giving them a say (reasonably) helps them to feel like their role is important and they will learn to take pride in what they do.
Examples of decisions kids can help you make:
- What seeds to order
- How to plan the garden space
- How to organize seeds
- What meals to prepare with the harvested produce
4. Give them age appropriate tasks
Make sure that the tasks you assign to your kiddos is appropriate for their age and development level.
Younger kids can take on the tasks that build fine motor skills and don’t require too much muscle.
Older kids can help with those same tasks as well as helping to build items for the garden and taking on the chores that require more gross-motor skills.
- Watering Plants
- Filling Containers with Soil
- Starting Seeds
- All of the above PLUS
- Build Raised Beds
- Build Compost Bins
- Spread Ground Cover
5. Let them draw their own garden plan
Drawing a garden plan can be complex, but it is a great idea to introduce your children to the planning concept while they are young.
Give them a sheet of graph paper OR a printed garden grid and a pencil. Tell them the general idea of a garden layout and let them get to work!
This should be a fun activity for the kids (especially for younger ones). Try not to micro-manage. If they plan their own garden space, they will learn what works and what doesn’t first hand. You can also help them re-design if needed, but loosen the reins as much as possible for them.
6. Give them Kid Sized Garden Tools
Older kids can use your garden tools, but smaller children benefit from having tools made for their size.
I DO NOT recommend using cheaply made toy tools if you want your kids to put in actual work. Most toy tools break easily and just won’t hold up to garden activities.
The only “toy” tools that I have found that last are from Green Toys. I put toy in quotation marks because I don’t really even consider these toys. They are quality garden tools in a kids’ size.
WHY I LOVE GREEN TOYS GARDEN TOOLS:
- They are well-made & functional. This is the only watering can we have. I use it right alongside the kids.
- They are single solid pieces. This is important because toy tools in two pieces (the handle screwed into the tool head) break easily.
- They are made of 100% recycled material
- The packaging is compostable. The package from this tool set is actually in my worm compost bin now as bedding.
7. Make it An Adventure
Try your best to NOT make gardening a chore for your kids.
If they want to go play, let them go play. You want them to enjoy being in the garden so work to portray gardening as a passion instead of a burden.
8. Let Them Harvest Their Bounty
When plants are ready to harvest, let the kids gather the produce.
Harvest time is when they will get to enjoy the fruit (or vegetables) of their labor. They will see that their hard work really is worth the wait.
Gathering and eating the produce that they have grown will provide a feeling of satisfaction and pride in their accomplishments. These feelings are what will motivate them to continue in their gardening efforts next season.
9. Let Them Explore and Be Creative
Don’t be too rigid when in the garden with your kids. Set boundaries (don’t pull up the plants, etc.), but let them explore and use their imaginations. Encourage their curiosity and questions.
Garden Exploration Ideas:
- Search for bugs
- Go on a scavenger hunt.
- Smell plants
- Draw their favorite plant
- Simply run and play