Nanny to Mommy: The Basics of Gardening with Kids



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Monday, October 15, 2018

The Basics of Gardening with Kids

Kids: they’re inquisitive, creative, energetic, and have an admirable desire to learn. One of the best activities to encourage and support all of these wonderful traits is gardening. Not only can gardening with kids be incredibly fun (the look on their face when they pull a potato out of the ground is precious), but it is an opportunity to teach them functional skills and life lessons that they will thank you for in their adulthood.


Aside from education, gardening has been said to lead to healthier food choices and a more diverse pallet of fruits and vegetables in children’s diets. Gardening also supports your child’s development in regards to literacy skills and cognitive learning.

And even if you aren’t a gardener now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t start! Gardening is also a wonderful activity for adults. It’s stress-relieving, meditative, a nice little workout (or a big workout), and it results in a beautiful backyard and fruitful harvest.

Read on to learn more about how to get started gardening with your kids!


Establish A Garden Bed That Is All Theirs

One of the best ways to help your kids feel involved in the gardening process is to establish a garden bed that is all theirs. Not only will it give them a space to experiment and grow plants that are all their own, but they will feel empowered and have a sense of independence since this garden bed is all theirs.


If you want to take this idea a step further, you could even have them help you build the garden beds from scratch! There are plenty of relatively simple raised garden bed plans available online, and you can customize them to fit your space and needs. To add even another layer on top of this, you could craft the garden beds out of found or recycled materials, teaching your kids that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure (or garden bed)!

Choose Plants That Are Easy Growing With A Short Season

While you could try to grow something difficult right out of the gate, it might be better to start your kids off with easy growing plants like beets, snap peas, sunflowers, or potatoes. You don’t want your kid’s first experience with gardening to be soured because the broccoli or the eggplant never developed.

Consider choosing plants that have a shorter growing season. This is especially important to think about if you plan on teaching this as a lesson during the school year. Beets, snap peas, cucumbers, green onions, and kale can all be grown in two months or less. Root vegetables are a good option too because kids absolutely love the activity that is digging or pulling vegetables out of the ground and eating them later!

Function Over Form Is Key

Here’s the thing, the point of gardening with kids is not to create the world’s prettiest garden bed. The idea is to plant something, watch it grow, and successfully harvest it. If it's your child’s first time gardening, chances are it's going to be a bit messy. But really, that’s half the fun! If they’re covered in soil with a grin on their face, who cares?

However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t teach them the importance of providing enough space between seeds. The spacing might not be perfect, and it may be a bit crooked, but as long as your vegetables won’t be crowded, you’re good to go!

And while we're on the topic of growing functional garden beds, you’ll want to set your kids up for the best possible growing conditions. Before you plant your seeds, consider mulching the garden beds. This will keep the weeds at bay and provide a nice starting point. For another project with your kids, consider making your own garden mulch.

Pick Plants That Are Well Adapted To your Area

Not only will well-adapted plants grow more successfully, but it's a great opportunity to teach your kids about the importance of how soil, temperature, and climate affect how plants grow. While growing bell peppers or avocados in the Pacific Northwest is certainly impressive, it doesn’t provide you with the same teachable moment.

If your kids are a bit older, you can teach them about USDA Plant Hardiness Zones. Here is a bit of an overview about the importance of choosing crops that are suitable for your local climate.

Consider Edible Plants

As I’m sure you’ve probably noticed, I’ve only really recommended vegetables that you should grow with your kids. That’s because edible plants are the most rewarding and provide you with a great opportunity to teach your kids about the food system.

For many kids, there isn’t much of a connection between where the food comes from and how it gets to their plate. By growing vegetables and fruits, harvesting them, and turning them into dinner, your kids get the opportunity to realize where their food comes from. Not only does it show them the whole process of growing food, but they will feel especially proud of themselves for growing it right in the backyard!

Teach Them The Importance Of Caring For Plants

As a kid, sometimes it can be difficult to understand that there is a process behind everything. Especially in this day and age, kids and adults alike expect everything to be instant. While it may seem like there is no such thing as waiting, this is simply not the case with gardening!

By teaching kids that they need to be patient and take daily care of their garden bed, you’re instilling the lifelong qualities that are diligence, patience, and care.

If you’re new to gardening, or just want a handy checklist, here are some of the gardening basics that you’ll want to go over with your kids:

- How to check and make sure that your providing your plants with enough water and sunlight to survive
- How to prevent weeds or how to get rid of them when they show up
- What to do when your plants look sick

If you want a bit more guidance, check out these school garden lesson plans that are available for all sorts of different ages and grade levels!

Turn It Into A Life Lesson

In many ways, gardening and growing plants can teach your kids a lot about life. Sometimes you can do everything right (lots of water, plenty of sunlight), and it still doesn’t work out (the deer ate your lettuce).

It can also teach them that hard work and perseverance results in something rewarding and delicious! Every part of gardening has a teachable moment, it's just about experiencing those moments with your kids and making the most of it.

Author Bio: Leigha Staffenhagen is the managing editor of Insteading.com, a homesteading and sustainability site focusing on everything from gardening and raising chickens to tiny homes and off-grid living.


5 comments:

  1. I just love this, such great tips and a good way to establish some life skills for the kids at an early age too!

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    Replies
    1. Gardening with kids is so fun, too! Watching their eyes light up when they grow something is so incredible!

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    2. Gardening with kids is so much fun, too! Watching their eyes light up when they grow something is so precious.

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  2. We just turned our front yard into a garden. Its a work in progress but my daughter loves helping out.

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  3. These are all great tips! Gardening is definitely something i would like to do with toddler

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Diana