Getting Kids to Dig Gardening

Filed under: Activities: Big Kids, Activities: Tweens, Activities: Teens, Home Base

gardening with kids

Let kids help with planting. Credit: Getty Images

You don't have to hire a baby-sitter when you head out this spring to plant -- little ones can help your garden grow.

You're ready to dig into gardening as a family as soon as your child understands dirt is not for eating, Sarah Pounders, education specialist for the National Gardening Association, tells ParentDish. She knows from experience: Her toddler helps her out in her own Houston garden.

Herbs grown in containers are a great way to introduce your child to the pleasures of the garden because they grow fast and offer all kinds of scents and colors to pique your child's curiosity. Be creative with containers -- anything from an old shoe to a wagon can hold plants as long as there are drainage holes for water at the bottom, Pounders says.

Mint is a hearty herb that grows easily and has a child-pleasing scent when picked. Remember, children like to touch plants, so don't expect a perfect garden. You might even want to plant your child's garden off to the side from your main gardening area because young hands like to pull plants out of holes, sometimes a little too early.

Pounders says her carrots never made it to the table because her daughter pulled them out too early when she saw the tops turn orange.

If you want to really dig in the dirt, consider planting seeds or young plants in rows. Planting seeds is fun, but spacing them far enough apart can be hard with tiny seeds. Try cucumber, beans and sunflowers -- all have big seeds that your child can easily plant.

Pounders suggests a variety of options for kid-friendly gardens:

  • Pizza garden: Plant tomatoes, basil and parsley.
  • Rainbow garden: Plant a wide variety of colors.
  • Soup garden: Grow different root vegetables for the soup pot.
  • ABC garden: Pick a plant that begins with a letter from the alphabet.
  • Sunflower house: Plant sunflowers in a square to grow your own play house.
"You can't help but be successful when you plant lettuce or marigolds," Greg Stack, author of the University of Illinois Extension program's "My First Garden," tells ParentDish. "Maybe you can grow your future salad."

He recommends giving children different seed catalogs and letting them cut out pictures of what they want to grow. Then, you can order the seeds or go to a plant store to pick out your first plants.

Gardening teaches discipline to your children while they wait for the plants to grow, water them, stake them and even weed them, Stack says.

"It's just like having a pet, but you don't have to walk it," he says.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.