Priorities When Gardening With Toddlers and Preschoolers
Whether or not you already have a garden, there are a few super important things to consider when gardening with little ones. Your sanity is at stake here, so…
Establish pathways and make sure they are clear to your kiddos! This is less important with raised beds than in-ground beds, but they still need to know not to walk or step on the soil. If needed, have them create fun flags or garden tags/signs to mark the pathways and serve as a reminder. These could be cute signs that label the fruits and vegetables you are growing or you could create a colorful, educational path of stepping stones.
Provide a separate space
Provide a separate space they can call their own that is NOT in the middle of your own garden. It should be in a place they know is theirs – where you don’t mind if the crops get yanked out too early, accidentally stepped on or who knows what else. It can be free for them to explore as they please without you having to stress over the plants. 🙂
Give them their own tools.
Having their own tools will help them feel like big helpers and get them used to using garden tools as a stepping stone for when they are older. I haven’t seen the one I linked to in person, but I felt it was the best choice because of the variety of tools, especially the spray bottle. A spray bottle is an excellent option for having your little one help with the watering. You can also use old measuring cups and wooden spoons. Mud pies, anyone?
Check in with yourself
Check in as you go. What are your goals? If you will be devastated if your plants get ruined because you are trying to save money by growing your own food, plant more than you need as a safety measure and/or cover your garden. Use tulle from a local fabric store or online and cover the space as another visual distinction for your kids. If your main goal is to teach your kids about food and learn a little along the way, keep reminding yourself of that and just have fun with it! Even if you don’t get any edibles the first year, your kids are learning just by being outside with you!
Garden tips regardless of whether you are gardening with a two year old, five year old or fifth grader…
Make it FUN!
If teaching your kids to garden is important to you but they don’t show initial interest, get creative about making it fun!
- Is your little one interested in space? Learn about the very first lettuce grown in space and tell them they can grow it, too! You could even decorate a pot to look like a rocket ship.
- Does he love carrots and the color purple? Grow purple carrots!
- Would she think it’s exciting to eat a flower? Grow borage, calendula or nasturtium.
- Does your little one have freckles? Grow lettuce that does, too!
- Do they love getting messy or digging for treasure? Have them become an FBI detective looking for Fungus, Bacteria and Invertebrates (FBI). Finding earthworms is always fun for a gardener!
- Check out my Pinterest board, Kids in the Garden, for gardening crafts and activities to get them pumped up.
- Most importantly, don’t forget that they will be excited if you are excited!
Talk. It. Up!
Chat with your kids about caring for the plants and growing their own food. Explain to them why it’s important to know where your food comes from and express your excitement when you are able to eat from your garden!
- Read Before We Eat: From Farm to Table before dinner one night and discuss where your meal came from that night. Or check out some of the other gardening books on my Pinterest board, Gardening Books for Kids.
- Celebrate your harvests by making the meal super special – eat off of fancy plates or give a special toast beforehand.
- Model how to care for the plants by speaking to them and gently caring for them. Show your kids that they are living things. They take care of us by providing nutrients and we take care of them by helping them grow strong and healthy.
I hope these tips help both you and your youngsters enjoy the garden.
Now, learn more tips from moms who love to garden with their kids.
Angela Judd, a mom of five – yes FIVE! – grows her family’s food (including loads of delicious fruit) and shares her tips for encouraging her kids, with ages ranging from kindergarten to college, to get their hands in the dirt.
Mom of Two Swears Only 25% of the Produce Makes It Inside Because the Kids Eat It Straight From the Garden
Kate Neale, a mom of two, grows food for her family and a local soup kitchen while working and earning her PHD – whew! Learn her best tips for gardening with two little ones.
“Teaching my children to respect the soil, tend plants, and harvest and cook what they’ve grown is as important to me as teaching them to read.” – Lisa Coffee
Mom of Three Raises Bees, Chickens, Dogs and a Cat While Volunteering at a School Garden and Growing Her Family’s Food
Learn Mia Cover’s top three tips for juggling being a wife, mom of 3 kids, raising animals and volunteering her time.