If you have a two year old attached to your leg while you’re trying to hoe weeds, you might be looking for tips for gardening with children!
Gardeners have a knack for growing things. Things like vegetables, herbs, and kids. And maybe all three and more!
But how to balance it all? How does gardening with children work? Especially young children?
We all know growing things take a lot of hard work. And sometimes much of our attention needs to be on the kids because they need something. And other times, the garden needs our attention because we’re trying to beat the rain.
Also we need to remember that growing kids take some nurturing as well. Benefits of gardening in early childhood (pre-k and younger) are so awesome. Even when they have trouble distinguishing between a lovely veggie plant and a weed.
I know all of these situations so well. And I want to give you some tips for gardening with young children, since I’ve lived this topic for nearly four growing seasons. Here’s what I will cover:
- 5 Tips for gardening with children
- The benefits of gardening in early childhood
- Different age groups and how to engage them in the garden.
- How to make happy memories gardening with children.
- Garden in the Glove activity as an introduction to gardening with children.
Let’s start with “Why?” Why I’m sharing with you tips for gardening with children from the ages of infancy to pre-school. Why I have such a passion for this topic of gardening with children.
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Why I Embrace Gardening with Children (And Why You Should, too)
Why Garden with Children? I’m going to tell you why I believe in the importance of gardening and engaging young kids in the garden.
So, at the time of writing this post, I have a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old. My 1 year old (Maci) is a very clingy child who would be the one attached to my leg. She hasn’t really found her “independent self” yet.
And my 3 year old (Mylee) would be the child who wants to help pull weeds…but pulls lettuce instead. The truth is, they both want to be with me in the garden. Sooo badly.
Both girls see my love and my passion for gardening and growing food for their plates. And these young girls long to be a part of it all. This fact just warms my heart. It makes me want to give back to them.
And I know the benefits of gardening in early childhood. Because I, myself, grew up in the garden. My 7 tips for gardening with children stem from my own experiences.
You see, I feel the need to help them learn just as I learned from my mom and grandma. And to help them become excited to learn and love gardening as much as I do.
Because these little gardeners are the future. The time spent in the home garden is just the beginning. The children will be learning life skills to help themselves in the future.
In order for them to learn, they have to be taught what matters and how to do that work that needs to be done. Although they are very young, they are still very capable of learning these skills. Just differently than we would learn the same skills. It’s all coming up as you continue reading about tips for gardening with children.
With that said, here are those 7 tips for gardening with children.
Help Them Understand Why You Garden
The first of the 7 tips for gardening with children is to always start with why. If you’ve ever been around a child learning to talk, you’ll find out that this is one of this child’s favorite words. “Why?”
So, explain why. Stay cool and don’t get frustrated with them. Gardening with children can be nerve wracking.
But, you must remember the benefits of gardening in early childhood. And that the kids are learning just by watching you. Your reactions to those questions needs to be positive to promote their positive learning environment. So, take time for those teaching moments. If they ask those why questions, give them an honest answer!
Take Time for Teaching Moments
And when questions arise, you will become the teacher they want to learn from. They are looking to you as the expert…even if you don’t claim to be a gardening expert.
You obviously know something about gardening or else you wouldn’t even try to do it. Let alone garden with children!
Plus, as you’re learning, you can teach the kids. Take the time to answer their simple but sometimes tough questions. This is probably one of the most important tips for gardening with children. To me, anyways.
Also, one of the most important benefits of gardening in early childhood. This could be the grounds for so many learning opportunities and meaningful connections with you.
After they learn a little bit, it’s play time. And that’s ok, too.
Set Up Their Own Spots to Play and Dig
This is one of the most important benefits of gardening in early childhood. Why? Because young children need lots of play in their lives. It’s how they learn.
While they might learn a little bit of instruction, playing is how they learn things at this age. Maybe they are bored with that said instruction but they want to be near you. And play in the dirt, of course!
So, set up their own little corner of the garden for them to play in. Encourage play time in the dirt. Let them get dirty.
Also, understand that they are learning. They will find all kinds of things, so be ready to answer those questions.
Let Them Learn While They Play
Without even realizing it, the kids will learn so much about the soil and what is in it.
Children will learn about insects in the garden. They will find garden snakes, spiders and huge earthworms to play with.
You might not realize how much they are learning. But as they use their hands and ask you questions, their little minds will endulge in your answers. So, give it to them straight.
Give Them The Big Words
Kids are little adults. They are listening. And they do remember “some” things you tell them!
So, when you’re teaching them, use the big words. Tell them what variety of carrots you’re planting. Kids’ minds are sponges and they will remember.
I remember we always planted Detroit Red Beets, Danver Long Carrots, Red Pontiac Potatoes and Little Marvel Peas. Why?
Because my mom told me the names of these plants when I was very young. And repeated every single year. It’s amazing how that long term memory works. And one of the benefits of gardening in early childhood is the ability to work with tools and remember techniques years after they’ve learned it.
Provide Proper Garden Tools & Fun
When the little ones want to help, let them. First of all, you’ll need to find some age-appropriate safe garden tools. Here is a list of the 3 best garden tool sets out there for pre-K and younger:
- Children Garden Tools
- Gardening Sets for Kids
- Hand Tool Set
- Children’s Gardening Supplies
- Gardening Crafts for Kids: Stepping Stone Kit
And with those tools, you can provide safe jobs that will teach them to be helpful in the garden.
Finally, Provide Age Appropriate Jobs
Finally, the last of the tips for gardening with children. As kids get older, they become more independent. And you find out that they “can do things all by themselves.” The truth is, they love learning and they love you. Kids want to do what you’re doing.
And one of the benefits of gardening in early childhood is that they can do what you do. As soon as young kids begin to ask questions and show interest, they can have a job in the garden.
And with the tools they need, you can assign young children jobs they can do. So, what are those jobs? I’m going to discuss balancing tips for gardening with children as well as some tips for gardening with children who are a little bit older. Here are a few examples of some age appropriate expectations for gardening with children.
I recall my second child being one month old in May. Time to plant tomatoes plants! And, yes, she went with me to the garden.
Of course, these little tots can’t do much yet. But if you want to get your gardening goals to be achieved, you’re going to have to put them down and let them play/observe. Or at least free your hands.
So, what did I do with my little Maci? Here are some great products I have that have helped me to balance gardening with children…specifically brand new babies.
- Ergo Sport Carrier – My favorite carrier for gardening with children.
- Teething Toys
- Blanket for Tummy Time
- Bumbo Seat
These are just a few products I have used for my infants while I’m in the garden. Babies need to learn at a young age to be independent. And they will be receiving benefits of gardening in early childhood just by observing you. That is one of the most hidden secrets and tips for gardening with children.
And I’m no expert at baby development. However, I do think I’ve learned a thing or two in balancing farm and garden work with young babies. I have found that my babies love to watch me work. So, I simply place them where they can see me.
With that, they are most content to watch me work. And they are learning, too. The benefits of gardening in early childhood begin with the youngest age. Soon, they will be toddling and wanting to play in the dirt with you.
The baby stage is by far the easiest stage…the next one has been a bit more challenging for me to cope with! Or maybe the word is…fun?
Tips for Gardening with Children: Toddlers
Gardening with toddlers takes things to the next level. Ok – maybe two levels.
Toddlers are a LOT more active than babies but they don’t really have the communication skills yet. They may not understand what you’re telling them to do. But one of the benefits of gardening in early childhood and gardening with toddlers is that the garden is a great place to learn those communication skills:
- Showing them how
- Telling them how
- Letting them do it.
Here are some age-appropriate tasks for toddlers:
- Watering the garden
- Planting Seeds in Containers
- Entertaining baby sibling (Depending on your toddler…Mine was always a mother hen to her sister)
If you show them how to do it, they will eventually get it. You’ll need to continue to monitor. Toddlers love to experiment and aren’t afraid to test certain theories, such as:
- If I Plant Three Seeds on top of each other, three plants will grow.
- And the more water I put on the plants, the bigger they will grow.
Yes, they still need you to guide them with these tasks. But the more independence and learning opportunities you give them, the more they will want to do in the garden as they get older. And the more help they will be (hopefully).
Don’t worry. Gardening with children does get easier with the pre-school stage. At least it did for me and my kids.
Tips for Gardening with Children: Pre-School
Gardening with preschoolers is just plan fun. They are starting to become better listeners and you can tell they want to try. Also, they are striving to become more independent and to “do it themselves.”
Just a few benefits of gardening in early childhood. Why not acknowledge and feed off of that to help your children grow their knowledge?
With that said, you can start giving them jobs in the garden.
Gardening activities for preschoolers include:
- Watering the garden
- Planting seeds and transplants
- Digging Holes (Mylee is really good at this one!)
- Pulling Weeds (Just make sure you tell them which weeds to pull).
- Pulling Bugs off of plants.
Gardening projects for preschoolers are so awesome because they learn a number of skills:
- Life cycle of soil and plants
- The difference between a weed and a vegetable plant
- Proper depth and spacing of seeds
- Planting Seeds with preschoolers
Just a few things there but so much more to learn! Germination is one I taught Mylee when she was 3 years old. The Garden in a Glove activity is a great way to teach kids about germination and seeds sprouting.
And that concludes tips for gardening with children by ages and stages plus the benefits of gardening in early childhood. How about an activity to get you started gardening with children?
Garden in a Glove Activity
When I was a school educator before children, I did this fun activity with 3rd grade kids called garden in a glove. But it can be done with kids of all ages and stages. The kids received:
First of all, kids plant seeds into the wet cotton ball. Cotton ball only needs to be damp…You don’t want to drown the seeds. Also, seeds need to planted into the cotton ball on one side only.
Then, the kids plant the cotton ball into the fingers of the glove with the seeds facing upwards. This is good fine motor skill development for young kids – One of the benefits of gardening in early childhood.
Finally, tie the opening of the glove shut with the pipe cleaner. Hand it in a window with lots of sun. Seeds need moisture, soil or organic matter and sunlight to germinate. This activity provides all three.
The kids will soon see their seeds sprouting. And then, they can plant them into containers or their home garden.
A Little Dirt Won’t Hurt!
Yes, the kids will get dirty. Even babies will be dirty after siblings come over to give them a little kiss and hug.
But, it won’t hurt them! I believe it that the more they are exposed to soil and outdoors, the healthier they are long term. I believe this because my kids and I spend most of our days outdoors in the dirt and are hardly ever sick.
The kids might need baths and showers at the end of the day. And while dirt and mud washes away, the skills they learned that day will stick with them for a lifetime.
Teach Skills and Lessons for a Lifetime
It’s true that gardening children can be difficult at times. However, you can include them by giving them activities, special places to play with their garden tools and learning opportunities to engage their young minds.
The benefits of gardening in early childhood are so numerous. I sure wish every house hold and preschool would take the time to include gardening with children into their daily lives.
I want to inspire you to connect with young children by sharing these tips for gardening with children. Teach them about the soil and what’s in it. Teach them about planting things and what it takes to make a plant grow.
Help them understand the benefits of gardening in early childhood.
Let them plant their favorite vegetables in containers so they can watch life happen. Or help them with the Garden in a Glove activity. The possibilities are endless. And however you choose to promote gardening activities for children, you’re making a difference in the early life of kids.
~ Much Love ~
I hope you have received some great value and tips for gardening with children! Do you have more examples of benefits of gardening in early childhood? Please share in the comments! I’d love to hear your experiences of gardening with children.