By Michael Jenkins | May 20
Gardening with kids can be a wonderful way to introduce them to the joys of working with nature. It can also teach patience, planning, and other good life skills. For gardening with children to be the best experience that it can be, it’s important to plan activities and spaces that children can enjoy. Children are natural explorers, and by giving them spaces to poke around and play in, you’ll foster learning and a love for gardening that may just last a lifetime.
The first step in gardening with kids is to plan spaces that children can enjoy. For younger kids, this may be a few containers or pots that they can work with; older children might benefit from a larger space, like a small raised bed of their own. Older children might also benefit from a bit more responsibility: letting them plan what to grow, where to plant it, and how to care for it (with some supervision, of course!). A garden space for children should be both safe and accessible. This means putting it near to the house so that they can play and explore as the mood strikes, while still having some supervision from a responsible adult. It also means ensuring that the tools they use are safe, the right size, and otherwise kid friendly. The space they’re working in should be free of obstacles, trash and debris, and other potential hazards. Kids love to explore, which makes them great garden students but also may lead to potential trouble if they’re unsupervised in an unsafe environment!
After you have a space for kids to garden, it’s important to select plants that children like to grow. Little ones are new to the world and may lack the patients adults are supposed to have, so picking at least a few things that grow quickly is often helpful. Indoors or in small space, just sprouting micro-greens or other seeds on a cloth or paper towel can be a good start. Kids can use this to learn how plants sprout and grow by observing every stage of the process. Starting larger seeds in a seed tray can be another good way to get children started with gardening by teaching them the basics of temperature, light, and water for growing plants and giving them something that grows quickly and is easy to observe. Beans, peas, and some kinds of squash are good for this, as are carrots and radishes. Plants that are relatively fast-growing, easy to recognize, and tasty are the best for young beginners!
It’s important to teach children who are new to gardening that working in the garden is a seasonal thing. Plant different things at different times, show them how things grow, and how the care plants need changes throughout the year. This helps them understand where food comes from and connects them with the natural cycles that govern the world. Connecting with nature also means teaching them about weeds and about the animals and insects that may inhabit your garden. Done properly, gardening with children is an education in how the natural world fits together.
In the end, that may be what makes gardening with children such a rich experience: it’s a chance for adult gardeners to remind ourselves of what makes having a garden so special. Working with nature and with the seasons, understanding the cycles of life, making mistakes and learning from them: these are the big lessons of gardening, and they are a powerful gift for the children in your life. So, if you’re gardening with kids we’d love to hear about your experiences. Please share them in the comments or on our social media. Gardzen is a community, and we’d love for you and your family to be part of it!