Every Mom who likes to garden dreams of getting their children into gardening. Wouldn’t it be nice to have your mini-me help you plant and tend the garden, and even pick the odd weed or two?
Unfortunately, trying to garden with children often turns into a power struggle, or it’s impossible to keep them interested and entertained. Or if you’re me, your toddler ends up rolling around in the dirt more than anything. Super cute, but not what I imagined.
So how do you teach gardening basics to kids, without losing your mind?
I’ve asked experienced gardening Moms and members of the Warman Collective Garden to share their secrets.
All photos are courtesy of Kids in the Garden Camp run by Warman Collective Garden.
Make Gardening Real for Children
We know where vegetables in the grocery store come from, but do our kids? Gardening is a great way to teach children about where our food comes from, and how just a few decades ago many families relied heavily on their garden as a main source of food.
Erin says, “Kids love to see the plants that they put in the garden get big. I encourage smelling flowers and tasting herbs. I also get excited when I see a bee or butterfly gathering nectar and pollen.”
“I like to point out vegetables and fruit in the grocery store and ask if they know what sort of plant they grow on, and if they’ve seen them in the garden before.”
Encourage Their Growing Love of Gardening with Books & Craft Projects
I’ve compiled this list of gardening books for babies, toddlers, school age children, and the teachers (and homeschooling mamas!) who teach them. There’s a range of books. Some are more garden project intensive, others are full of fun craft projects, and others are geared for younger children to teach them what a garden is, and help them understand why it takes so long for food to grow!!
Give Kids the Fun Jobs
I know, in a perfect world, our kids would help us with all the weeding as well as the harvesting. When you feel your child is old enough, you can give them their own garden space to plant whatever they want–and make them responsible for weeding and watering.
When your kids are younger, it’s best to involve them in the fun stuff. Most kids love to help with seeding, watering, and picking the harvest.
If you have a child that really loves to water, make them in charge of watering the family watermelon or pumpkin. Those two plants love water and can stand up to all the water your child gives it.
Plant Vegetables Kids Want to Eat
Your kid may not like vegetables, but growing their own is a great way to encourage them to start expanding their palate. For example, my good friend started planting purple beans because her daughter is obsessed with the colour purple. Now her toddler requests beans for supper instead of refusing them.
Erin of Kids in the Garden suggests rainbow carrots. “The tops are green, but the colour of the carrot is a surprise until you pick it.”
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Side note: if anyone is reading this and you have a kid with Autism, this advice will probably not work for you. My son has Autism and when he was younger, advice like this would not work for him in the slightest. Now that he’s older and we’ve made progress with food textures and combinations, it might. I just wanted to include this, because as a parent of a non-neurotypical child, I find it really frustrating that advice for picky eaters never includes our children, or even acknowledges that it probably won’t work for our children–which is especially frustrating because our children are typically the most picky eaters you will ever meet. *gets off soapbox*
With that said, I’m going to share with you some of my favourite neurotypical-kid-friendly vegetables and flowers.
A List of My Favourite Kid-Friendly Vegetables and Flowers
- Easter Egg Radishes
- Rainbow Mix Carrots
- Flambo Beans
- Any purple or yellow variety of beans
- Snap peas
- Watermelon–perfect for toddlers who love to help water!!
- Bachelor’s Buttons–my Mom always planted them for me.
- Baby Boo Pumpkins
- Jack Be Little Pumpkins
- Atlantic Giant Pumpkins
- Zucchini–there’s always something to harvest once it gets going!
When You Get Frustrated, Remember Why You Want Them To Garden in the First Place
Erin says, “Nurturing something even as simple as a plant grows empathy for living things. Seeing a beautiful healthy garden is also calming for the spirit and brain. Growing your own food develops a habit of healthy eating and self sufficiency. I have a passion for gardening and plants. Encouraging them gives them an activity for us to do together.”
Don’t give up when your kids don’t seem interested. I complained a lot about gardening when I was a kid, and I’m pretty sure I told my parents every year that I would not have a garden when I grew up. And yet here I am, obsessed with gardening and writing a gardening blog.
Enrol Your Kids in Gardening Camp
Gardening camps for kids are becoming more and more popular than ever. They have fun hands-on experiences like planting seeds, making jam, picking produce, and even running a market garden! If you’re local to Saskatoon, SK, the Kids in the Garden Camp is a fun day camp to send your budding gardener to.
They’re still accepting registrations, you can enrol your child here.
If you’re not local, try searching “Gardening Camp” or “Kids Gardening Program” as well as your City, State or Province. Still nothing? Pick up one of these Gardening Books (the ones for teachers) and consider starting your own.
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Kristen is a former farm kid turned urban gardener who owns the popular gardening website, Shifting Roots. She is obsessed with growing flowers and pushing the limits of what can be grown in her zone 3b garden. She also loves to grow tomatoes, but oddly enough, dislikes eating them raw.