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Growing Healthy and Happy Kids in the Garden ~ Gardening with Children

Updated on April 26, 2012
Kids or scarecrows - they both belong in the garden!
Kids or scarecrows - they both belong in the garden! | Source

Gardening is a Pleasant Family Activity

Are you looking for a great family activity? Then look no further than your back yard and your local garden center. Gardening with kids is a fun activity with many different tasks to be done that will entertain kids of all ages, 1 to 101. Gardening is also educational. Kids are exposed to so many different things in a garden: soil and its preparation and why that is important, insect identification, the miracle of planting and watching the plants grow and produce, plant identification, plant care, pest control, composting, etc. And after harvest, the child can help with the vegetable’s preparation for a meal or preserving for later.

Different Types of Gardens

There are many different types of gardens that can be planted, depending on the location of your garden and its purpose.

  • Vegetable
  • Herb
  • Flowers – annuals or perennials
  • Mixed – a mixture of flowers, vegetables or herbs.
  • Butterfly – growing plants that a beneficial to the full life cycle of the butterfly
  • Hummingbird – growing flowers that attract hummingbirds
  • Wildlife – growing plants that are beneficial to many different animals

Harvests are one of the many benefits of growing a garden.
Harvests are one of the many benefits of growing a garden. | Source

Benefits of Working in a Garden

  • Gardening is a great stress reliever.
  • Gardening gets you and your child outside to enjoy the sunshine, the fresh air, and each other’s company.
  • Gardening can be very educational. Learning the requirements of plants and what you can do to make soil improvements can be very educational for both you and your child.
  • As children work in the garden, they will come across many different kinds of insects. Being around insects and interacting with them at an early age can teach them not to fear them. By providing your child with an insect field guide and fueling their interests, insects could become a hobby or even a career.
  • A child will probably be more willing to eat their vegetables when they helped plant them, nurture them and harvest them. This process can provide satisfaction and achievement for your child.

Kid-sized tools are easier for them to use, and safer also.
Kid-sized tools are easier for them to use, and safer also. | Source

Beginning to Garden with Your Child

The first garden for a younger child could be a container garden. It is easy for them to claim and it is also easy to maintain. As the child grows, so can their garden. Before you even start with the soil preparation, sit down with your child and plan their garden. Then let them take full responsibility for their little garden, from the soil preparation, to planting, to watering and weeding, and finally harvesting. If their garden is a small area in yours, then they can learn by watching you and practicing the same thing in their garden.

It is wise to start small so that the area they are caring for will be well tended. This will give them not only satisfaction, but success as well. For other gardening tips, check out, 10 Tips for Gardening with Kids ~ Gardening with Children.

If you live in an apartment or lack the space for a garden, container gardening may be your only choice. Many garden centers now offer plants that are specifically created just for this purpose, such as the ‘Tiny Tim’ tomato and the ‘Patio’ tomato. Many plants grow well in containers.

When you are helping your child choose plants for their garden, be sure to look for plants that are disease and pest-resistant.

When gardening with a child, it is best to remain organic. Since children love to touch and feel their environment and their little fingers often end up in their mouth, it is better to be safe.

Kids love the outdoors!
Kids love the outdoors! | Source

Age and Abilities, Capabilities, and Responsibilities

Ages 2 to 4 – Soil preparation will be the most enjoyable part for this age group. A very small plot is adequate for this age – just enough for a few fast growing seeds such as radishes or carrots and a few tomatoes and/or pepper plants. Miniature varieties of many plants exist to make the garden more child friendly for this age group. This will be enough to keep them both fascinated and busy, and it will not overwhelm them. Children in this age group and above really enjoy the bright colored vegetables such as jewel-colored Swiss chard or flowering kale.

It is good for kids to know that most insects will not harm them - it takes an unnecessary fear out of life.
It is good for kids to know that most insects will not harm them - it takes an unnecessary fear out of life. | Source

Ages 5 to 8 – As your child matures, their skill increases, and their interest in gardening grows, the size of their plot can also increase. During your garden planning session, help them to choose plants that they will have success with. Also choose plants that will appeal to their senses – sight, touch and smell. Children in this age group can begin growing the full size varieties. Herbs are really great for children to explore the world of smells and tastes. Be sure to plant sunflowers. The flowers follow the sun every day until their heads become so heavy with seed they cannot.

Ages 5 to 10 – Children in this age group who have been gardening will really begin to pick up on the different needs that various plants have. They will also begin to be able to identify beneficial insects from the harmful ones as well.

Ages 10 and up should be able to do a fairly large size plot and take full responsibility for their plot. This would include planning, planting, caring for and harvesting. With this accomplishment comes a sense of satisfaction and pride.

Additional Garden Tips

  • By planting flowers in your garden such as marigolds, nasturtiums (which are edible) and sweet peas, you will be adding color and interest to your garden. These flowers will also draw pollinators into your garden, and some, like the marigold, will actually repel garden pests.
  • Help your child create a gardening calendar to keep up with the tasks that have to be done in the garden. Watering and weeding the garden may not be as much fun as planning and planting, so a calendar will help them to remember these important tasks. They can find great satisfaction in marking off completed tasks. Be sure to notice when a task has been completed and to praise them for remembering. The calendar can be kept in your child’s room or on the refrigerator.
  • Remember to include your children in fall gardening activities as well. In areas where it is extremely hot, such as in the southern states, fall gardening can be even more successful than spring gardening which tends to heat up too quickly for some plants that require cooler weather. Also consider planting some spring flowering bulbs such as crocuses, daffodils, tulips and hyacinths which are consider to be great for beginner gardeners.
  • Smaller child-sized tools are easier for the child to handle and safer.

Indoor Winter Garden Activities

There are many gardening activities that can keep your child’s interest in gardening piqued even in the winter.

  • Herbs can be grown indoors. They grow fast and they are tasty as well, and as long as they are kept trimmed and placed in a sunny window, they will continue to grow.
  • Grow a sweet potato vine.
  • Flower bulbs can be “forced” in the winter months indoors. See the video below.

Forcing Flower Bulbs

  • Grow a pineapple. See YouTube video below. I learned a lot watching this video.

Unique Gardening Projects for Kids, With Your Help of Course

Wishing I Were a Kid Again .... with these wonderful and FUN gardening projects listed here!

A really fun gardening project for you and your child to create together could be a Sunflower or Bean Tepee Play House and another great example of a Sunflower Play House. Other fun playhouses for those who have the room could be a Living Willow Play House or this Living Willow Play House that reminds me of an American Indians Hogan.

Consider growing gourds in your garden. These can be painted and decorated as birdhouses. Another great activity the kids would enjoy! They can also be used as table decorations in the fall.

Plant a sunflower house and create a magic world for your child.
Plant a sunflower house and create a magic world for your child. | Source

Other Gardening Activities Children Might Enjoy

  • Racking leaves which can be a chore for adults can be lots of fun for kids, especially if they can jump in them a few times in the process.
  • Making a scarecrow for their garden. Let them make one that is kid-sized using some of their old clothes!
  • Creating and caring for a compost pile.

More than Plants can be Tended in a Garden

When you think about gardening, you may think of planting, caring for, and harvesting vegetables, or cut flowers. But when working in a garden with a child, you are also caring for and nurturing your child; and you are training them to be caregivers and nurturers as well.

Gardening helps children learn about responsibility, and accomplishment. It not only allows them to learn about their environment, it provides a working playground to learn without even realizing they are. Gardening is a great activity that grows more than plants – it grows relationships, and healthy, happy kids!

All Rights Reserved

Copyright © 2012 Cindy Murdoch (homesteadbound)

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Comments: "Growing Healthy and Happy Kids in the Garden ~ Gardening with Children"

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    • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Murdoch 

      9 years ago from Texas

      Donna - Gardening is a wonder with kids. It is exciting to see it again through their eyes. it is also wonderful to see their thirst for knowledge when they are learning without realizing it.

    • DonnaCosmato profile image

      Donna Cosmato 

      9 years ago from USA

      Excellent basic overview of how to get the best results when teaching kids to garden. I especially liked the wintertime tips!

    • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Murdoch 

      9 years ago from Texas

      stephhicks68 - The garden is truly a great place to have fun and to learn to have fun learning!

      Movie Master - So glad to hear that you are imparting your love for gardening to your grandchildren. What a wonderful gift to give that will keep on giving.

      Thanks to both of you for stopping by. I really appreciate it!

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 

      9 years ago from United Kingdom

      What a wonderful, wonderful hub, I loved it! packed with information, tips and great photos.

      I love gardening with my grandchildren and am always thrilled by their enthusiasm and interest.

      Thank you and a big vote up, best wishes Lesley

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Marshall 

      9 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Kids love working in the garden, and its a great place to express creativity while learning about science and ecology. I agree that kids are healthy and happy in the garden! Rated up - nice work, Steph

    • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Murdoch 

      9 years ago from Texas

      PurvisBobbi44 - I too was raised on a farm, but my love for nature and for feeling the soil between my fingers has only increased. I am glad that you found this joy as well. So glad you stopped by and shared your thoughts with me.

    • PurvisBobbi44 profile image

      Barbara Purvis Hunter 

      9 years ago from Florida


      I really enjoyed your hub it was beyond great as it helped children to enrich their minds and skills.

      I helped a class plant pumpkins one year, and I was so amazed and over joyed that they came up, I was as happy as the children.

      Since my mother was raised on a farm, she would never let me plant anything or work at anything but my lessons.

      So, when I finally got to plant something I was 22 years old.

      And now I have planted so much around my yard there is hardly a yard.

      So this is on my list as one of the greatest hub.

      I voted up, useful and awesome.



    • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Murdoch 

      9 years ago from Texas

      Rolly - I am pleased that you found the article thus. thanks!

      Simone - Gardening truly is fun and something "different" for kids to enjoy. It connects them with the earth. It is a good thing.

      Ruchira - I too find peace in the garden. I am pleased to hear that you and your child enjoy it together.

      Marcy - I grew up on a farm also, and worked in a dairy that was adjacent to the farm, and there are many things I miss as well. There is a special freshness to things, even if it is created by animals and foul smelling. It is so different than the odors found in pollution and smog.

      PurvisBobbi44 - I hope you enjoy when you return.

      EyesStraightAhead - Lots of great reasons to start a garden. I am so pleased I could help you and you were able to glean the info you need from one specific place

      Healthy Pursuits - What great memories you will always have about sharing the gardening experience with your son.

      Thank all of you for stopping by and commenting. I really appreciate it!

    • Healthy Pursuits profile image

      Karla Iverson 

      9 years ago from Oregon

      One of my early favorite memories of being in the garden with my son: when he was two, he'd eat cherry tomatoes from the tomato plant he knew was his alone. He had been taught to pick only the red ones.

      I discovered that he also knew where the green onions were, when he came up to me with dirt around his mouth and his breath smelling like an onion. That's when we had a learning session about washing vegetables as they're pulled out of the ground. He ate them, roots and all. His little toddler breath smelled of green onions the rest of that summer. He still raises a garden today and he's in his forties.

    • EyesStraightAhead profile image

      Shell Vera 

      9 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      So timely! I have been thinking that I will start gardening this year 1) to save money on the cost of veggies, 2) to enjoy time with my little one and get her used to getting dirty, and 3) to have a new hobby that provides relief from sitting inside writing all day! Thank you for sharing this GREAT information, as I was becoming overwhelmed by all the information available online but not in one place!

    • PurvisBobbi44 profile image

      Barbara Purvis Hunter 

      9 years ago from Florida

      The photo is so Darling--I will be back to read your hub when my company leaves.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      9 years ago from Planet Earth

      What great ideas for teaching kids some practical skills, getting them outside, and being together as a family. The photos are darling, by the way - cute kids! I grew up on a produce farm, and I miss the smell of wet earth in a field. I especially miss the greenhouse fragrance - it was wonderful.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting and SHARED!

    • Ruchira profile image


      9 years ago from United States

      Hi Cyndi,

      I agree gardening helps them calm down. I and my kid often venture out in to the dirty mud and I find so much peace within me and my little one gets grounded.

      He has been planting quite a few things with me...loved this hub and agree 100% with it.

      voted up and sharing!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      9 years ago from San Francisco

      What fun! My elementary school had a garden and I LOVED days when we worked in it. I like your age-specific tips. Lovely Hub!

    • Rolly A Chabot profile image

      Rolly A Chabot 

      9 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Excellent article and te pictures are fantastic, packed full of information and very well presented Cindy.

      Hugs from Canada


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