Gardening With Kids:

Practical Advice.

For the past 10 years I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the magic that happens when kids are invited into the garden and encouraged to truly take ownership of their space. From tilling the ground, to anticipating the harvest – the garden has an incredible ability to give kids practice in observing their world, being patient, learning about commitment and so, so much more! At Global Gardens this is the work we do every single day. When I became a mom I knew that I wanted to bring these same lessons to my own children.

Through my work I’ve noticed not only an increased connection to the garden with the students and families we work with, but also among the general population. Maybe it’s only in my bubble, but I like to think there is a bigger shift happening in regards to building a better world through reconnecting with soil, local/slow food and the understanding of our responsibility to care for the ground we borrow from our children. There is evidence for my case as I walk our urban neighborhood and see raised beds in a good portion of the yards, and as I pull up to our midtown moms’ play group to find Swiss chard and sugar snap peas growing among the front landscaping.

A frequent question from friends is how to include kids in the gardening process, especially those littles.  While I’m no expert, I’m happy to share some practical tips for how to get your kids involved. It goes without saying, doing ANYTHING with kids requires extra patience and willingness to stray from perfect – assuming we’re all parents here, I would imagine we have that down!

Include them in the process

My first tip is to include your kids in the process as much as possible. Let them look through seed catalogs or accompany you to the local nursery to buy plant starts. Choosing things they love to eat is always a great place to begin when planning your garden. The more they can see the whole process, the more willing they are to follow instructions and be invested in the success of your joint efforts.

Plant for success

It will be your job to choose plants that will grow well in our area and at the right time of year. The OSU extension office offers great resources for knowing what to plant and when. I highly recommend printing these off and keeping them handy as your plan your garden. Doing your part to set your garden up for success will help keep you and your kids excited. Just as a preview, we are entering summer, so it’s the right time of year to be planting fruits and hot-weather-loving plants like tomatoes, peppers, okra, beans, squash, cucumbers and many herbs. If you’re new to gardening, I suggest starting simple and small. You can always expand your garden, but taking on too much at once may leave your family feeling defeated.

a young girl eats a carrot from the garden, for article on gardening with kids

Trying out a purple carrot from the garden! 

Give your kids the right tools and special jobs

My daughter loves to have things that are especially hers. Find some kid-sized shovels, trowels, a watering can and garden gloves that your little one can use safely. To make the appropriate sized holes for seeds, use references they can easily grasp like “make a hole up to your first knuckle.” You can also make the holes yourself and give your child the special job of dropping the seed in (wishing it well!) and then covering it up gently with soil. Don’t be afraid to go back later and add in a few more seeds if you’re worried they may not have been planted well. You can always thin later if you have too many. This takes away stress in the moment but helps ensure your efforts will be fruitful!

Designate a space to play and experiment

What kid doesn’t like to dig for the sake of digging? I’ve found giving kids an outlet for their innate desire to dig helps keep them from digging up your hard work! Depending on your space you could create a designated area in the garden for them to go to town with their shovels. You can add trucks and cars or let them experiment planting seeds however they want in that space. If your child is insistent on planting something out of season (pumpkins in October for example), it’s a great opportunity to tell them they are welcome to try it and see what happens – let them learn by doing; isn’t that how we learn best anyway?

Prioritize art

Let your kids color your plant markers, make signs or paint rocks for your garden. Kids innately understand the value of beauty and giving them a hand in decorating your garden will build their ownership.

If you haven’t started a garden yet, maybe this is your year. It’s not too late. You can even start a garden in pots on a sunny place on your porch and build up to something more permanent in your yard. I’d love to hear if this was helpful to you. I’ll be blogging more this month, so please post any questions you have or things you’d like me to discuss for next time. You can also share some of your own tips and tricks for gardening with kids. I’d love to hear them! Until then, happy gardening!

Ayschia Kuykendall

Categories: Guest Blog