How to Get Your Kids to Enjoy Gardening: 9 Tips is a guest article written by Bethany Hayes. Bethany is a writer, suburban homesteader, and mother of three children.
Gardening with my children is one of the most rewarding activities that we share together. It’s a great way to get them outside and teach them how their food grows.
Gardening is an activity that people of any age can enjoy, from toddlers to adults to the elderly. It brings everyone together and unifies us towards one common goal.
At first, you might wonder how to get your kids to enjoy gardening, but relax! Often times, the end results are enough to entice your kids to enjoy gardening, even the chores.
How to Get Your Kids to Enjoy Gardening: 9 Tips
1. Give Them Their Own Tools
The first thing I do at the start of the gardening season, aside from order seeds, is to decide what garden tools I need. At the same time, I make sure my kids have their own set of gardening tools.
Smaller tools fit smaller hands better, making the tasks easier for them. Here are adorable blue or pink children’s gardening tool sets. Also, give them a special place, such as a box, to store their tools.
2. Provide a Garden Plot Just for Them
Your children can and should help garden in your main family garden, especially if you are growing large quantities of food. However, giving your child a special spot to call their own is encouraging and fun!
Don’t control what they add to this garden bed. It’s theirs!
3. Let The Kids Pick Plants
Even if you don’t have enough growing area to give your kids their own plot, another great way to get your kids to enjoy gardening is to let them pick the plants they want to grow in the family plot.
Offer them a few ideas, but the final choice is up to them. They can plant seedlings or seeds.
If you start your plants from seeds at home, then they can help start their plants at home as well, a magical process where they’ll get to see the entire lifecycle of a plant from seed to harvest (or even to seed saving).
When you help pick plants for your child, consider plants that grow rapidly to keep your child’s attention and excitement. Some plants your child might enjoy growing include:
- smaller currant or cherry tomatoes
- snap beans
- sweet peppers
4. Don’t Force It
Some days, your kids might not want to head out in the garden with you, and that’s ok!
If you start to force them, gardening turns into a chore that they’ll dread. Obviously, that’s not what you want.
Instead, use positive reinforcement: encourage participation, praise them for their hard work, and talk about how happy you are that they give you help.
5. Plant Creatively
Using creativity when you garden will encourage your children to do so as well – and make gardening more fun.
You might be tempted to just make simple rows, but kids love creativity. Try planting in triangle shapes! You can also stack planting boxes or use unique, colorful containers. Another favorite: use teepee trellises (see #7 below).
6. Show Them Where Their Food Comes From
For our family, one of the main reasons we want our kids to be gardeners is to learn where their food comes from. Food may be delivered to the grocery store on a truck, but that’s not where it originates.
Gardening with your kids can and should be a profound, fun learning experience.
You can also show your kids how food scraps can be composted and returned to the earth to replenish the soil. Teach them about the benefits of earthworms, and how worms and other organisms in the soil food web are an integral part of our food chain. There is so much to learn while gardening — you might just be surprised by what you learn as well!
7. Try a Teepee Trellis
Building a teepee trellis or fort is a way to garden creatively and get your kids to enjoy gardening as well! All you have to do is make a teepee or a lean-to out of lumber, bamboo, or branches. Then, let your kids plant vining plants near the base of the structure.
As the plants grow, your kids can help guide them up the teepee. By the time the plant covers the structure, your children have a fun place to play and hide in the garden!
8. Make Garden Chores a Family Affair
Once the plants start to grow, gardeners have a lot of maintenance work ahead of them. At times, it can feel like a drag. However, instead of treating like a negative experience, turn it into a positive if you want your kids to enjoy gardening.
Work side-by-side or invite other kids to join in to help keep the garden watered and weeded. Sing and talk to your kids as they work. Spray them with the hose and get into a water fight!
You can even promise them ice cream after they finish helping; everyone loves working for ice cream!
On that note, if you REALLY want your kids to enjoy gardening, use their love of sweets to your advantage by making fresh fruit ice cream, sorbet, yogurt, or popsicles using fruit you grew in the garden. (A Cuisinart works great for this purpose!) Blackberries, peaches, grapes, or any other fresh fruit that grows well in your climate can make amazing frozen treats on a hot summer day.
9. Harvest and Cook Together
Now that all of the work is over, it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor! Encourage your child to create meals and dishes with the produce they grew. Even picky eaters will often try a fruit or veggie if they grew it themselves.
Also, if their garden grew a lot of produce, encourage your children to set up a stand outside your house where they can sell their excess! Not only will you encourage a love of gardening, but you’ll also help to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset in your child as well.
Some of my best memories throughout the summer are the times I’ve spent with my kids in the garden. It might be when they decided to have a spur of the moment hose fight or when my toddler single-handedly ate over half of my pea plants! I was left with no harvest, but what parent can complain about a child who loves his veggies?
I hope these nine tips get your kids to enjoy gardening as much as mine do!