Teaching kids to garden can be such a wonderful experience that can create memories for life. When I was a little girl my mom had us grow carrots and cucumbers and other things that were easy. We also had grape vines along the side fence. She wanted to make sure her kids knew where food came from, what a carrot freshly pulled out of the ground looked like. I remember those carrots and how we had almost no patience for them to get to maturity. We often pulled them up when they were tiny little baby carrots. They tasted sweet and nothing like store bought carrots. When my sons were little and my oldest expressed an interest in plants, we dove in to growing whatever plants he liked. It started with succulents, irises and carnivorous plants. All which he still grows many of today at almost 22 years old. (He is also in college for horticulture.) With his love for plants we started our first vegetable garden when he was around 4 or 5. It started as a small rectangle in the back corner of our yard where it grew to take up a lot more space. It evolved many times over the years and the boys interest in helping always changed too. This old space now has a water garden and many, many grow bags and we have expanded the garden to pretty much every nook and cranny that we could. Below are a few ideas on how you can teach kids to garden. There are many ways to get them in the garden and learning, these are a few that we have done as a family.
- Help Build the Beds – Kids can help build the raised bed(s) by helping to fill the wheelbarrow, hand you the tools needed, maybe even use the drill depending on age and ability. They can also help guide the wheelbarrow or possibly take it back to the garden for you. If they are older, you can have them help with the heavy lifting.
- Seed Starting – This is where they have the ability to really help you. For smaller kids, give them the opportunity to sow seeds for bigger seeds like peas, beans and sunflowers. They can help fill your seed starting containers. You can ask them to be your look out for sprouting. This can get them excited and also teach patience. Have them pick their own plant to grow and care for throughout the plants whole lifecycle from a few seeds you know will grow well and quickly.
- Tending the Garden – Kids can help spread compost or even help with side dressing any plants that need it. You can have them try to find any garden insects, both beneficial and any pests. This can be a jumping off point for further learning through other activities, library and museum visits, etc. to learn more about insects.
- Harvesting – Showing kids the difference between what is ready for picking and what isn’t before having them help you harvest will greatly reduce the amount of unready vegetables/fruits in your harvest basket. Give them their own basket and show them what and how to harvest.
- Prepping/Cooking – Have them join you in the kitchen to make meals from what was harvested. This not only teaches them the full cycle of food, but it also can instill a love for cooking. Kids are more likely to taste food they helped to grow and cook.
- Don’t Push It – Know that some kids may be very interested in gardening and others may have zero interest. Honor where they stand and let them know the opportunity to help is always there, should they ever want to help. You never know when there will be a change of heart.
Growing a garden with my sons was a great way to teach life lessons like patience, perseverance, life cycles, food sovereignty, and so much more. There are so many benefits to teaching kids to garden. I have found that kids are more likely to try new food that they grew and tended. Our garden has evolved over time, some years that were super busy we grew things in containers only, other years it was a mix. As time went on it grew to what we have today. You do not need to have a large garden or acres to teach kids to garden. Your set up can be as simple as herbs in a container on the sunniest window sill you have. You can also grow solely in containers if space is limited. Our garden started small because I had 3 young boys to care for and we wanted them to have the maximum space in our yard for play and exploration. I recommend that if you want to build a garden for your kids to start with a 4’x4’ raised bed. You can easily build this together. They can help by handing you tools and parts, guide the wheelbarrow of soil, etc. A 4’x4’ bed is an excellent size for kids to tend. If you have more than one child, you can divide the bed and have each child be responsible for their section.
When it comes to growing a garden with kids, remember to not force it on them, but include them in fun activities. Before you know it they will be competent gardeners, but don’t be disheartened if they end up not being interested in it at this time. Keep the opportunity open to them, invite them to join you, they may change their minds in time. They might not and that is okay too. I have one son who loves to garden and grow many things, none of which are food. One son loves to grow hot peppers because he really enjoys eating spicy things and likes making his own salsas from the garden. Another son doesn’t really care about any of it except sitting out there with the dogs. He will gladly help me with the heavy lifting or hard work, that suits him better than sowing seeds or tending the garden. Each way they have come to interact with the gardens in their own way is fine with me. Enjoy the time together and take pictures! I would love to hear how you teach your kids to garden, what activities work for you, etc. Please share your experiences in the comments. ⬇️