Gardening with Kids: Teaching Them How to Grow Their Own Garden

A lady gardening with her child

Gardening with Kids: Teaching Them How to Grow Their Own Garden

Gardening with kids can be a fun and educational experience. And since kids love getting in the dirt and playing around to begin with, why not make it a productive experience by showing them how to build and grow their own square foot garden? (I know, I know…play in and of itself is important, too 😉 ) Whether it’s a garden of fruits and vegetables that they get to eat, or just pretty flowers that they get to nurture and watch grow (and cut for their mothers for Mother’s Day), it’s a great real life homeschooling (a.k.a. lifeschooling!) opportunity for children.

Taking things from seed to flower has so many lessons that can be taught, practical and educational. So here’s how to teach kids to grow their own garden.

Ten Steps to Gardening With Your Kids

1. Get them interested in gardening

Before you even start, you must help them develop an interest in gardening. But don’t worry…it’s not too hard. The way a seed turns from a seed into a plant is captivating to children and if you are a true homeschool mom, you’ve probably already done a little science experiment to show them this. 😉

Of course, with boys the gross angle can work quite well…that is, unless you have a child like my oldest who used to literally cry when he would drip food on his high chair tray. But for most boys (and some girls), the bugs and creepy crawlies will sometimes really draw a child in. If you want to make it fun and see your child really get into it, figure out your child’s interests and play to that.

2. Get the right tools for the job

How fun is anything if the tools you have are too big or too small for you to use? It’s just frustrating. Go on a shopping trip to make sure your child has his (her) own gardening tools – gloves, aprons, rake, shovel, watering can, etc. Gardening with the right tools can make all the difference!

When ours were young, we found some cute child-sized metal rakes and shovels at Lowe’s and it really made working with us in the garden and homesteading easier for them. Picking out their own kid-sized, brightly-colored tools will make the process more exciting for them.

quote about gardening with kid-sized tools

3. Begin growing things that are easy to grow.

While it’s good to let your child be involved in the decision-making on what to grow, it’s important when gardening with your child to help steer him in the direction of things that are easier for beginners. The last thing you want to have happen is to invest time and effort into the project and then have nothing come up!

You should also consider the fact that if there is a long span between planting and harvesting, your child may lose interest. Here are some great suggestions of what you could try when gardening with your beginner gardener:

• Tomatoes – We grow tomatoes every year and it’s so satisfying to come inside with bowls full of all kinds of fresh tomatoes! We prefer heirloom varieties, especially for our tomato sandwiches. Only one juicy slab is needed for a piece of bread!

• Sunflowers – Korban loves growing sunflowers! When our older kids were little, we planted some outside our kitchen window and had the added benefit of birds flying in and sitting on them as they enjoyed their meals, so we turned our own meals into an educational time.

• Marigolds – Plant them on the perimeter of your garden and you’ll have the added benefit of pest control!

• Squash – Be careful about planting different varieties near each other and especially be careful about planting melons close by, or you will end up with some interesting crosses!

• Radishes

• Peas – Both peas and beans can be a very fun planting experience, growing them on trellises. Kids seem fascinated by vines and the fun snapping noise when you harvest them.

• Beans

• Sweet peas

• Pansies

• Poppies

• Lettuce – Lettuce is a very easy thing to grow, but once it starts producing you have to keep up with harvesting or it will quickly go to seed and become bitter. And believe me, that bitter taste will easily turn your little gardener off to the whole proposition!

Any or all of these would be great to try when gardening with your beginning gardener. Do a little research of your own (with your kids, of course, so you can get in that homeschool science time) and decide which ones to start with. I would suggest you start small, though, and work your way towards expansion later. Just trust the wisdom of a homesteading flunkie on that. 😉

4. Down to the basics of gardening

Here’s another word of wisdom for keeping your child’s interest when gardening with your kids: Don’t initially make your child do big jobs like tilling the soil and adding nutrients. Major fun killer! You can do that without him (unless we’re talking about an older child who might have an understanding and interest in this sort of thing). After they realize how fun it is to grow their own garden and you’ve got them hooked, then you can involve them in the hard, labor-intensive stuff, and teach them more of the technical aspects of soil nutrients.

picture of Korban holding a shovel and relaxing in a wheelbarrow.

So just start out with the basics of showing them how to plant the seed in the dirt. You can either plant first in some egg cartons or directly into the ground. Planting in egg cartons is great for smaller children to keep those seeds in place and then you know exactly where they are. Plus, you have more control over their environment and can start them inside or in a greenhouse. At the right time, you can put the egg carton directly in the ground and it will disintegrate, leaving the seeds in their place to grow and thrive.

lady gardening with her child

5. Be in tune with all of nature and God’s design

There are wildlife and bugs that are beneficial to your garden, but then there are some creatures you need to keep away. Again, make this part of homeschooling by helping your child learn the difference between the two and being able to identify various creatures. You can also do some study to discover ways to attract the critters you want around for pollinating your garden and repelling the ones you want to deter.

6. Show them the awe-inspiring aspects of gardening

Children love being surprised and awed by unexpected things. For example, if you take the cutting of a begonia plant and replant it, another will grow. Finding these surprising aspects of gardening will amaze them and have them wanting to experiment with other plants.

As they learn more on their own, use that interest when you’re back inside homeschooling. Do more research and find some other unusual gardening experiments they might want to try. You can also keep track of your gardening adventures by creating a garden or plant journal.

7. Decorate your garden

Children often have no problem being creative, so tap into that and use things from around the house to decorate the garden. Make your own pinwheels to place around the garden; Decorate planters for the flowers they grow to be planted in; And make a bird feeder to go in your garden. You can keep it simple and it doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but brainstorm with your child on how you can really make this garden his own.

A couple years ago for my birthday, I was given these Scripture stones with verses engraved on them to put in some of my planters. I love seeing them and being reminded of God’s truth as I water the garden!

8. Don’t forget to care for the garden

Speaking of watering, once the seeds are planted, children need to know that now the real work begins. Plenty of water and sunshine will be important, especially at the beginning to help those newly-planted plants grow healthy and strong. You will also need to be aware of what unwanted vegetation is (a.k.a., “weeds”) and how to best dispose of them (pulling) to keep what you’re trying to grow strong and healthy.

Weeding is definitely not the fun part of gardening with your kids, but if the incentive of seeing their plant grow and be able to be harvested in a few months isn’t enough, then consider another type of incentive. We once paid our daughter to pull weeds in our back lawn…and way underestimated the number of weeds to the amount of time it would take. Yeah, we learned that lesson the hard way and she ended up a bit richer! So it can certainly be an incentive, but maybe be careful if you choose that route. 😉

9. Don’t stop just because the season changes

Snow? Hail? Ice? Nothing has to stop your gardening adventures! Keep the garden going year round, even if that means moving it indoors and gardening with the plants in pots for the time being. Obviously, this will be a much simpler proposition if your plants are grown in pots (or these really helpful grow bags that we have used) to begin with. (By the way, an added advantage of this method is fewer weeds). But you can also transplant certain plants if you need to.

I will also add here that if you are careful where you plant, you can extent the growing time quite a bit. In some of our previous houses, gardening with this idea in mind, we were growing peppers and tomatoes right up until Thanksgiving due to planting near the house in a “tucked away” area that made it difficult for frost to affect it. The radiating heat from the house also helped extend the growing time. (Granted, we are also in North Carolina, so we have a longer growing season anyway!)

10. Always be enthusiastic when gardening with your kids

Be willing to try new things with your child. If tomatoes and peppers aren’t his thing, try a Venus Fly Trap. Ha! That might not be good for an outdoor garden, but why not try an indoor plant such as that, too? What kid doesn’t find a bug-eating plant totally fascinating? The point is, sharing in your child’s excitement, even if it isn’t what necessarily excites you, will keep the learning from becoming a chore. We never want to stifle their love of learning if we can help it!

Keep encouraging exploration and learning and before you know it, your little gardener is going to be a pro and might even teach you a thing or two. Once a child finds an area of giftedness, you can’t stop him from becoming an expert!


Okay, now it’s time for you to get out there and start growing that garden with your kids! Gardening with kids can be fun, rewarding, and educational. But remember, this is a hobby, not a chore, so keep it fun and engaging and you…and they…will never get tired of it.


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