With spring in full bloom and summer and fall around the corner, it’s the perfect time to get the kids outdoors and introduce them to the joys of gardening. As early as age 6, children can develop an excitement for gardening that they can share with grandparents, siblings, and parents.
Gardening has grown in popularity, with around 18 million new gardeners in the United States in 2021, and the average garden produces $600 worth of food when properly maintained. Why not make gardening an educational, engaging, and fun activity for your kids?
In this article, we will explore starting a home garden with your kids, deciding which vegetables to grow, establishing a gardening schedule, teaching sustainability, and keeping children plugged in with fun activities. Let’s dig in and get our hands dirty!
How Do I Get Started Setting Up A Home Garden With My Kids?
Starting a home garden with your kids is easier than you might think. Let’s go through the steps of how to get started.
Choosing The Right Space
The first step is to pick the best location in your yard. You don’t need a lot of room: the median size of a home garden is only 96 square feet. When selecting a spot, consider:
- The amount of sunlight vs. shade
- The ability to keep the areas protected from animals and pests
- The slope of the land
Involve your kids in the process so they feel invested in the project from the beginning.
Preparing The Soil
One fun activity to do with your kids is building a simple raised garden bed or repurposing a sandbox. Raised beds offer a few benefits, including better drainage, fewer weeds, and easier maintenance. To build a raised garden, follow these basic steps:
- Measure and mark the area for your raised bed.
- Dig out any the grass and level the ground.
- Build a sturdy frame using untreated lumber (cedar or redwood are great choices) and galvanized screws.
- Place the frame in the designated area and ensure it’s level.
- Fill the bed with a mixture of topsoil, compost, and peat moss.
Selecting The Right Tools for Kids
To ensure your kids have a pleasant gardening experience, provide them with child-friendly tools that are the right size and weight for their age. Essential tools include:
- Small hand trowel
- Hand rake
- Kid-sized gloves
- Watering can or hose with a gentle spray nozzle
- Child-sized wheelbarrow or garden cart (optional)
Safety is important, and children’s tools are still tools that can have sharp prongs, blades and edges. Teach your kids the proper way to handle and use the tools you have on hand, then supervise them when they use them.
How Do I Decide Which Vegetables To Grow?
Deciding which vegetables to grow can be a fun exercise for you and your kids. A few things to consider while making the decisions:
Considering the Climate and Season
First, think about your local climate and the current season. Some vegetables thrive in cooler temperatures, while others love the heat. Choose plants that have a history of flourishing in your area’s weather conditions. A local garden center can give you ideas.
Evaluating the Space Available
Next, look at the available space in your garden. You don’t want to overcrowd the plants, so focus on growing one to three vegetables that are easy to maintain and resilient. Ideally, pick one quick-growing plant so your kids can see faster results. This will help keep them engaged in the garden project.
Picking Kid-Friendly Vegetables
To make gardening more fun for the kids, choose vegetables they already know and ones that are easy to plant and care for. You can provide them with a list of options, but let them decide which vegetables to grow. After planting, you’d like them to care for “their” vegetables. Popular and easy-to-grow plants include:
- Green beans
- Tomatoes (great for warm climates)
- Summer squash and zucchini
Spend time with your kids to pick out seeds, planter soil, and needed tools. Together, watch YouTube videos on how to plant and care for each selected vegetable to make it a fun learning experience. A short list of gardening tools and supplies you’ll need:
- Planter soil or potting mix
- Hand trowel
- Watering can or hose with a gentle spray nozzle
- Gardening gloves
By involving your kids in the decision-making process and choosing vegetables that are fun and easy to grow, you’ll set the stage for a successful and enjoyable gardening experience.
How Do I Set Up a Gardening Schedule For a Kid To Follow?
Setting up a gardening schedule is a good way to keep your kids on track with their new caretaking responsibilities. Here’s how:
Start by looking up the watering and care instructions for each vegetable you have planted. You’ll need to know the ideal frequency of watering, pruning, and other care techniques to help ensure your plants can thrive.
Create a Chart
Make a chart that includes days of the week and the gardening tasks that need to be done each day. Consider color-coding the chart to make it easy to understand and to separate tasks by person.
Provide Support and Gradually Increase Responsibility
Your child might need some help at first. Guide them through the early stages of caretaking. Over time, let them maintain the garden on their own. This will build their sense of ownership — and confidence.
Monitor Progress and Record It In A Journal
Together with your kids, monitor the garden’s progress. Encourage your child to record plant growth and changes that they observe in a garden journal. This is a useful and educational way to teach them how to track their plants’ development. Remind the kids that a journal is a way to help them document results and help them remember successes for next year’s crops!
When it’s finally time to harvest, help pick the vegetables. The kids will be thrilled to see the outcomes of their efforts and taste the fresh and yummy homegrown veggies they grew and nurtured.
By creating a simple and easy-to-follow schedule, you’ll not only help your child stay on top of their gardening tasks but also teach them the importance of consistency and responsibility in caring for their plants.
How Do I Teach a Child About the Sustainability That a Home Garden Provides?
Teaching your child about sustainability and the benefits of a home garden is an essential part of their gardening journey. Here are ways to help them understand the impact of their garden on the environment and local food systems:
Explain What Sustainability Means
Begin by explaining the concept of sustainability, particularly in relation to food and food production. Talk about how sustainable practices help preserve natural resources and support a healthier environment for future generations.
Discuss the Benefits of a Home Garden
Explain how having an organic garden reduces the number of trips to the grocery store, where vegetables often travel hundreds of miles before reaching the shelves. This helps reduce the carbon footprint associated with food transportation while ensuring that the food your family consumes is fresher and healthier.
Teach Eco-Friendly Gardening Practices
Teach the importance of maintaining a garden sustainably and in an eco-friendly manner. Tasks and techniques you can introduce and help to get kids to help out with a lawn care schedule:
- Pulling weeds by hand instead of killing them with chemical sprays
- Using water-saving methods like soaker hoses and watering cans instead of large sprinklers
- Applying moisture-retaining mulch to help reduce water evaporation from the soil
By explaining sustainable gardening practices, kids will learn valuable lessons about the environment and develop a deeper appreciation for the food they grow and consume. As kids grow up, their gardening knowledge and experience will help them make better-informed choices about their impact on the planet.
What Are Fun Gardening Activities That Will Keep a Kid Engaged?
Keeping kids engaged in gardening can be a breeze when you mix in fun and creative activities associated with their garden. A few ideas
Cooking With Homegrown Veggies
Once your vegetables are ready to be picked, involve your kids in planning and preparing a meal using fresh produce. This is a great way to introduce them to cooking and help them appreciate the fruits of their labor.
Encourage your child’s creativity by carving vegetables into fun shapes together. This fun activity not only hones their fine motor skills but also sparks their interest in trying new foods and creating festive decorations.
Creating A Wishing Tree
Set up a wishing tree in your garden or home, allowing kids to consider their goals and dreams. They can write or draw their wishes on small pieces of paper or tags and hang them on the tree, creating a colorful and inspiring display.
Autumn Leaf Lanterns
Collect colorful autumn leaves with your child and create beautiful leaf lanterns together. You can make them by gluing leaves onto a jar or balloon and placing a battery-operated tea light inside for a warm, glowing effect.
Incorporate Fun Games
Keeping kids engaged in gardening can be a blast when you incorporate games and activities. A couple of garden games to help your child stay excited and involved in the gardening process:
Pumpkins provide endless fun, especially during the fall season. From carving jack-o’-lanterns to painting pumpkins, there are plenty of ways for kids to get creative with this versatile vegetable.
As Big as Me
This garden game encourages kids to compare the growth of their plants to their own height. Have your child choose a plant they want to track, then take a photo of them standing next to it. As the plant grows, continue taking pictures to document its progress. This activity helps kids learn about plant growth while having fun seeing their plants “grow up” with them.
Garden Scavenger Hunt
Create a garden scavenger hunt to help your child explore and learn about the plants, insects, and other living creatures in the garden. Make a list of items for them to find, such as different types of leaves, flowers, or bugs. Encourage them to take photos or draw pictures of the items they discover. This game not only keeps kids entertained but also helps them learn about the diverse life that inhabits their garden.
By adding these engaging activities to your gardening routine, you’ll keep your child interested and help them develop essential life skills and a greater appreciation for the natural world.
Creating a garden with your child offers numerous benefits, including teaching them life lessons and fostering a love of nature. You can customize gardening activities to match your child’s capabilities, whether you’re looking for something small and easy or more challenging. With technology becoming a bigger part of the lives of kids, it’s important to encourage children to participate in an outdoor activity like gardening to help minimize their screen time. Gardening is a fun and informative way for kids to enjoy the outdoors while keeping busy.