Children are inquisitive and can become interested in many different subjects. They like to learn by acting upon their interests and if you remember anything from your own childhood – children love to play in the dirt. It’s almost a natural thing to explore a garden! And even though many of these “natural” activities have become extinct for many children due to the growth of the internet all types of entertainment devices, it would be nice to bring a little green back, right? Just remember your own satisfaction as a child when being taught about plants, caring, playing in the yard all while observing rare bugs, flowers, and other creatures through the looking glass that is the circle of life.
Throughout this article, we’re going to guide you through creating a fascinating kid-friendly garden to nurture not only plants but also your relationship with your kids through a healthy and engaging activity. You’ll soon notice that gardening is an exquisite chance to learn and teach important life values as well as become aware of the environment by exploring the works of nature. Walk with me, will you?
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How to know it’s the perfect time to teach kids about gardening?
First off, know that it’ll never be too late to teach them about gardening. However, there’s that almost-magical age when you notice kids being both curious and helpful around the home’s functionality and projects. They’ll start asking questions, they’ll see you painting a room and will want to grab a brush themselves! Embrace this moment with an enormous smile on your face and get ready to provide answers as means of activities and teaching moments. This will be your cue.
If you’re a parent or guardian already into gardening, your kids will most probably make the approach as soon as they’re ready. If you’re interested in starting yourself, this might be the perfect opportunity to nourish this activity together. Encourage them and motivate yourself!
Quick Tips Before You Get Into Gardening:
Before we get into the “how-to” of it all, we’d like to share a few quick tips to start off on the right foot when gardening with children.
1 Real Tools for Real Gardeners
Kid gardeners (even if they’re kids) need real tools to work the ground. Cheap plastic “beach-style” gardening tools will just not do it. Not only will these break easily and frustrate them, but they’re also actually worse than having no tools at all. It might be hard to get good tools for kids, especially for their small hands. Try going to your nearest shop and searching for smaller tools and gloves. Even if they’re a bit too big, they’ll feel enthusiastic about getting acknowledged to do an important task that requires real tools and not plastic ones.
2 Let them work their own dirt beds
When getting ready to plant, make sure they get their own garden beds to work with. This also refers to any gardening containers such as ground plots, pots, raised beds, etc. Each child should have their own separate working space. For young kids, keep them small and place their plots in the middle of it all. Use the best soil and light. Setting them up for success is the best thing you can do to motivate them!
3 Reuse old Sandboxes and Any Garden Usable Objects
Have your children grown past their sandbox stage? Well, if they have, consider transforming the old sandbox into an amazing garden bed. This will not only teach children about recycling and reusing skills, but will also encourage them by giving certain object continued “ownership” and functionality for the new garden project. Make sure your new garden bed receives plenty of sunlight, great soil, and free of roots. Nevertheless, make sure the sandbox is in good condition for use. Consider scouting your garden for other toys, objects, or planters that you haven’t used in a while and add them on to the new gardening project too. Send your kids out on a treasure hunt for reusable materials!
4 Great Things Begin with a Single Seed
Even if it may be convenient to buy starters, children will definitely learn more by experimenting with the entire growing process, from the seed, to the first sprout, to the harvesting stage. The nurturing that goes into a sprouting seed is one of the most valuable aspects of the gardening experience and teaches the values of patience.
Learning how to read the instructions for each type of seed is also very valuable. There may be seeds that need to be started indoors and then transplanted into pots when ready, other seeds may require different amounts of sunlight, and so on. You can keep a notebook/calendar with dates, types of plants, and growth time for a more engaging learning experience.
5 Encourage, Motivate, and Engage for a Successful Kid-Friendly Garden
Through gardening, you’ll notice just how sweet of a learning experience this will be for your children. You will reap the benefits of their enthusiast, new knowledge, and excitement for what’s to come. But in order to achieve this, they’ll need to understand the context of each activity. Gardening is fun, but it will be far more than play. Let them know they are contributing to the home and family as well, give them purpose as well as a little freedom and independence to make their own decisions. Do this by having them plant and nurture their very own garden beds, harvest and prepare the crop.
6 Cheating is OK!
With the previous point said. There might be some tasks smaller children may not be up to do. For instance, certain tasks that require more strength, adding fertilizer, or specific chemicals for growth or keeping critters away, or any other tasks that aren’t pleasant for children. They won’t need to know every little helping step you take to move things along! As long as it works out at the end and your child learns responsibility and ownership of their plot, you’d all have won.
7 The World Needs to Know About Your Child’s Success
By this, we simply mean: Show off their work! Even if it’s just to other friends and family, make sure they know they’re doing a great job and acknowledge this by telling others. Send cute photos to grandma and grandpa too! This kind of attention to their work will keep them motivated and engaged with their garden.
8 If Gardening Does not Succeed – Find Something Else!
Hey, gardening may mainly have to do with planting, harvesting, and the nurturing process this all takes. However, there may be children that are just not in the mood for this activity or just don’t like it. You’ll notice when they’re not being attentive to the teaching moments right off the bat. If “orthodox” gardening fails, have them take up other activities in the outdoors. Bug collecting, watering routine, building scarecrows, seed preparation, or just harvesting. There’s a lot to do in a garden, as long as they feel they’re contributing, whatever they end up doing, it’s still a great start.
A Step by Step on How to Start a Kid-Friendly Garden
1 Selecting Plants
This is probably one of the amusing parts of starting a kid-friendly garden! So much so, that it might get them pumped for trying new fruits and vegetables once they learn about the perks and magic of gardening. Head to the gardening store and let them choose some of their favorite crops (we’ll include a list of kid-friendly plants later on). You can pick up some creative and colorful planters as well. Make sure they’re present in every step of the selecting stage, teach them about reading the seasonal, watering, and other specific instructions before choosing. This way, you’ll show them they are responsible for these crops and their nurturing.
2 Time to Prep the Garden Bed
Power tiling should be left for an adult. Children can start off by spreading soil, manure, and any other additional minerals into the soil. This is the time to teach about the different types of ingredients for a successful garden bed, as well as familiarizing them with an array of tools and their functions such as shovels, rakes, and trowels.
Hear them out! Do they have a specific arrangement for their plants? This can be a good time to teach about companion seeds. Again, take into account any requirements for specific crops.
3 Plant, Water, Repeat
Digging holes and sprinkling the seeds might be one of the exciting tasks at the beginning of a garden. If you’ve chosen starters, teach your kids how to gently remove plants from the pots before settling them into the ground.
Time for watering! Once the plants or seeds are in the ground, make sure you go back to the watering instructions – although new plants require plenty at first. Grab a fun sprinkler of their own at the garden shop and show them how it’s done. It’ll be fun! After that, it’s just about keeping a watering routine for each different crop.
Don’t forget to teach your kids about the value of water and how to be resourceful with it. You can create a rainwater harvesting plan by using a rain barrel as well.
4 Yey! It’s time to Harvest
Truly, the most magical part of the process is harvesting. If your kids have been thoroughly helping through the season, they’ll be thrilled to see their plants growing. Teach them about how long different types of fruits and vegetables need to stay attached to their mother plant. Once ready to be harvested, allows kids to pick up their fruits and veggies themselves!
What to Plant for Kids? The Perfect Plant List
Fruits & Veggies:
- Radishes – Radishes reap quick results, especially for the anxious young gardeners. These germinate in about three to ten days and grow within twenty and thirty days. Fun fact: For spicier radishes plant during the hot weather, for mild radishes, plant during the cold weather.
- Snow Peas – Want to magically, quick-growing peas? These are so much fun and kids can snack on them by pulling them out of the vine. These take approximately ten days to complete germination and will mature within approximately sixty days. Peas should be planted in cooler, shaded locations. Make sure you plant them close together.
- Cherry Tomatoes – The best kind of tomatoes! Who doesn’t love bite-sized tomatoes? These are so much fun for kids. It’s best if you plant these from seedlings, you’ll need about 2” stakes along with each seedling. These need a good amount of compost. Growing takes about fifty to seventy-five days. You can grow these in containers also.
- Lettuce – Gotta have some good old greens! You don’t have to answer right away when your kids ask you if they’ll need to eat those. Just let them relish in the magic of growth! These are reliable crops and will bear quick results. Lettuce rejoices in part shade, keeping moist soil during the first two weeks and will germinate within 7-10 days. Maturing at about 40-50 days. They should be planted at a certain distance, not too much, because of the leaves.
- Carrots – These are also super fun. They’ll definitely be reminded of cartoon bunnies grabbing carrots straight from the ground and munching on them! Carrots prefer to be put directly into the ground and at cool temperatures. These are slower to germinate, maturing fully at about 60 days. Make sure the soil is free of pebbles and rocks. They require good amounts of water. Plant them at about 3” apart. Plant only a few of these as they will grow faster and easier.
- Potatoes – Ah, one of our favorite root veggies. With potatoes, you’re able to plant different varieties of potatoes and here’s a little secret: Red potatoes will mature quicker. All you have to do is cut seed potatoes in blocks and keep two “eyes” per block. Plant at about 12-15” apart, eyes should point up. Mound soil around it as it grows and harvests when it collapses.
Aromatic & Tasty Plants
These are usually started from planters, as they’re easier to get growing and harvesting for cooking great meals. If you decide to start from seeds, make sure you read the germination instructions carefully.
- Mint – Great for kids! It’s super aromatic and will awaken their curiosity. You can get numerous varieties of mint.
- Dill – Another aromatic herb that kids will surely enjoy. It has a cure feathery foliage and smells kinda like pickles!
- Four o’clock – A bushy, trumpeted shaped flower that comes in a variety of colors. The charming things about these is that they don’t open until late afternoon.
- Sunflowers – Aren’t these the most charming flowers in the world? No kid can resist the sun-filled flower that is the sunflower. These come in a wide array of sizes and colors. They grow from 12 feet to 3 feet depending on the variety you choose. You can get the common yellow sunflowers and combine them with red and orange too. Their sun-chasing characteristics will have kids awed, not to mention, the delicious seeds that follow.
- Snapdragons – These come in a large variety of colors and sizes. These are fun! By pinching the blossoms, you make the “dragon’s” mouth open.
- Hens & Chicks – Succulent plants are great for planting and replanting. These are great for filling in nooks. They’ll look great anywhere you plant them and are relatively easy to care for.
Texture Filled Plants
Some plants are perfect for smelling, eating, and seeing, while others are perfect for touching. This is the fun and fuzzy plant collection:
- Ornamental Grass – These come in a wide array of varieties. What’s so great about this one? You can grow it in small to large fun and colorful containers to place them indoors! If you leave them outside, as the wind engages the foliage, it produces a soothing sound. It’ll make kids attentive to these details!
- Chinese Lantern – These are sort of papery, inflated, orange/red lantern-like pods. Not only are they a creative sight to look at, but they also create interesting sounds in the wind.
- Money Plant – This is super easy to grow and sometimes grows purple or white flowers. The texture of the plants is succulent and water-filled.
Gardening is a Type of Magic That Most Kids Will Appreciate (at least for a while)
The general rule of thumb regarding compostable materials is that you need to keep and monitor the brown stuff to green stuff ratio if you want to keep the microorganisms that will transform your scraps into good soil. Having too much green or brown waste can affect the breakdown of your compost. Aim for 25 to 50 percent of soft green and fill the rest with brown woody materials.
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden savvy kid in your hands, you’ll be more than thrilled to learn with them throughout the process. If you’re lucky enough to have a kid that is interested in other activities within the garden then so be it! You’re still one lucky parent, because gardening is all about pointing kids’ attention away from devices and into the magic of nature. It is a great resource to teach them several life skills and priceless environmental values.
What are you waiting for? Your kids and your garden are waiting to flourish!