Stuff I’ve Learned While ‘Gardening with Kids’

I was recently asked to write some ‘Gardening with Kids’ tips for our pre-school’s newsletter. After I wrote them I realised that they were more ‘non-tips’ than actual tips so I’m sharing them here.

After nearly seven years of trying to get my boys interested in gardening I feel like I have learned a little bit about what they want and what I want. There is no golden list. So I offer this as some things that I’ve learned about my children. They may or may not work for you. But please do add your tips in the comments.

  1. Let them use real tools. I don’t really do ‘kid gardening’. I’m a great believer in letting children do exactly what you do in the garden but under supervision. Those kid tools sets with tiny trowels and miniature gloves look cute but they don’t tend to last. It’s much better to let children feel the weight of a trowel so I let them use my tools as I’m using them. If I’m sowing seeds in the greenhouse they can too! When I’m digging they dig, and when I’m raking they rake. If hands are too tiny I give them spoons to dig with.
  2. Don’t expect too much. At age 3-4 I gave my oldest (Jackson) a small garden made out of an old sink. He would dig the soil and put random seeds in there. In his mind he was ‘growing’ things just like me. When he was 4-5 I gave him a small patch of the garden and he grew Peas up a wigwam and Carrots. I helped him tend his garden and when the Peas grew he was amazed. Now that he’s 6 (almost 7) he tends his own garden and this year even erected his own wigwam.
  3. Keep a dustpan and brush handy. There will be mess so be prepared to be the under gardener and clean up after the fun.
  4. Go with the flow. Try to be okay with growing whatever your child wants to grow. Jackson refuses to grow anything but Peas and Carrots every year. Try not to mind that they’re sowing the wrong seed for the time of year, or that the seed is sticking halfway out of the soil. Just let them do it.
  5. Get a special seed box. There is nothing more exciting than going to the store to buy brightly colored seed packets and keeping them in a special box. My boys often get their seed boxes out and just look at them. Jackson likes his to be very neat, with a written list of what’s inside. Devon likes to empty the seeds into the box and mix them up.
  6. Know that different people garden in different ways. Our gardens are unique just like we are. Some of us love the manicured look and some the wild, cottage garden look. I think a child’s personality plays a big role in what their garden looks like. Also, age too. Devon likes to throw his seed at the garden – which makes for an interesting look.
  7. Choose quick-to-germinate seeds. Kids are impatient and so the quicker their seeds germinate the better. Choose things like Peas, Radish, Lettuce, or Cabbage. Carrots are great when it comes to harvest time but can take a long time to germinate.
  8. Grow the pickables. Grow things in your own garden that are easy to pick and eat straight from the garden. These include, Peas, Snap Peas, Strawberries, Blueberries, Teeny Tiny Tomatoes, Small Carrots, Apples, Peaches etc. It’s a great opportunity to teach kids about what is ripe and what is not. You only eat a green Strawberry once, right?
  9. Harvest together. When it’s time to go out and pick something for the dinner table include the kids too. Grab a colander and go out together to see what’s ready. You might find that if they pick it they’re more interested in eating it. This never worked for me regarding greens, but still, worth a try!
  10. Relax. If your kid is more interested in kicking a football than sowing seed take a deep breath and enjoy your garden alone. There is a silver lining to every cloud.

7 Comments on “Stuff I’ve Learned While ‘Gardening with Kids’

  1. Hi there! I’ve recently discovered your blog and am really enjoying the photography, writing and general garden inspiration! I live in Melbourne, Australia, and also enjoy gardening with my 5 and 2 year olds. I agree – gardening has to be real! No mini shovels, aprons, gloves etc needed.

  2. Some great tips, thank you. My 20-month old son already loves being out in the garden with me and I’m hoping that will continue as he gets older.