One of the best things we can do as gardeners is pass along our love of gardening to our children. When I was a kid, my mom would let me and my two brothers each pick a corner of the garden to plant cucumbers. As the season went along, we’d watch excitedly as our cucumbers grew and jump at the chance to harvest them (it was also a bit of competition between us siblings to see whose plants grew the most cucumbers 😉).Now that I’m grown and have my own kids “helping” me in the garden, I thought I’d share some tips that I’ve learned along the way.

Patience: Cultivate Patience in the Garden

My kids having a great time climbing soil bags when I was setting up the garden.
My kids having a great time climbing soil bags when I was setting up the garden.

Gardening with kids requires an abundance of patience. As any parent knows, tasks that seem simple and quick can often take twice as long when children are involved. It’s important to set realistic expectations and remember that gardening with kids is about having fun, not just the end result. Embrace the slower pace, and like our gardening shirts say, “Romaine Calm, Lettuce Carrot On”.

Select Kid-Friendly Seeds

My son sowing pea seeds in the garden.
My son sowing pea seeds in the garden.

Kids love getting their hands dirty and sowing seeds. To make it easier for them, choose seeds that are large and easy to handle. Peas, beans, and seeds from the squash family are perfect choices. Their size and shape make them convenient for little fingers to hold and place in the soil, increasing the chances of successful planting.

We learned this lesson the hard way this year; first we planted peas which went super well. I dug a trough for the seeds and my son was able to plant them every couple inches and they grew super well! However, next to the peas we planted carrots, and nearly a hundred seeds ended up in the same spot.

A large clump of carrot seedlings that my kids planted.
A large clump of carrot seedlings that my kids planted. Needless to say, we’ve got lots of tiny baby carrots this year 😅.

Designate a Digging Spot

One of the designated digging spots in my garden.
One of the designated digging spots in my garden. Half of a 4x8 raised bed is more than enough space for most kids.

Kids love digging in the dirt, but that can sometimes pose a challenge in the garden. They might accidentally dig up your carefully planted seeds or seedlings. Rather than fight their natural digging nature, create a designated digging spot just for the kids. This can be a small section within the garden or even a separate container filled with loose soil. Now, they can dig to their heart’s content without worrying about affecting the main vegetable plots.

Give Each Child Their Own Garden Space

When I was a kid, my brothers and I each had a corner of the garden where we were in charge of growing cucumbers. It was great to see the whole process from sowing seeds to harvesting cucumbers.

Kids love having a sense of ownership and responsibility. Give each kid their own little spot in the garden where they can grow what they like. Friend-of-the-app Ben Gardner of the Backyard Gardens podcast, does just that. This year he gave his son an entire garden bed to grow what he wanted, and he chose potatoes. This is a great way to let kids grow their independence and gain an appreciation for gardening.

Discover Garden Critters

Kids love bugs. Whether they’re poking rolly pollies or try to burn ants with a microscope, they’re all about the bugs. But us gardeners….not so much, especially the ones that munch on all of our plants. But we can teach them about beneficial insects like ladybugs, bees, and earthworms.

Celebrate Harvest Time

My son eating a carrot straight from the garden!
My son eating a carrot straight from the garden. He didn’t want to try carrots before that but now he loves them!

Harvesting is perhaps the most exciting part of gardening for kids (and adults!). Involve them in the process of picking ripe veggies. Encourage them to taste their freshly harvested produce (after a quick rinse, of course) and try out simple, kid-friendly recipes. This hands-on experience teaches them where their food comes and it might even help a picky kid try something new. 

And if your harvest is a bit too bountiful, involve your children in sharing the harvest with friends, family, neighbors, or your local food bank. It’ll be extra rewarding, especially after all of their help in the garden.

Garden Crafts and Projects

Here are a few craft ideas for the garden:

  1. Make plant markers using popsicle sticks or stones painted with the names or pictures of different plants.
  2. Create a scarecrow to protect corn at harvest time.
  3. Build a birdhouse.

Be Safe and Sun Smart

Gardening often involves being out in the heat and sun for extended periods. Make sure your kids are adequately protected by providing them with hats, sunscreen, and comfortable clothing. Encourage regular breaks in the shade to stay hydrated.

Wrapping it Up

Gardening with kids is a great way to get them outdoors and teach them where their food comes from. It’s also a great way to spend time together and create lasting memories. I hope these tips have been helpful, and that you and your little minions have a great time gardening together. Happy gardening!