Teaching Kids To Garden (When & How Should They Start?)

Now, I’m no parent—but getting children involved in the garden seems like a win-win to me. You get a little extra help pulling weeds and your kid gets to experience nature, connect with their food, learn a little responsibility, and use up their extra energy so that they’re actually tired at bedtime.

Gardening has as much benefit for kids as it does for adults, adding to their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Gardening encourages physical activity as well as teaches youngsters responsibility as they learn to care for living things and witness the fruits of their labor.

If you want to ignite a passion for gardening, start by giving your child their own space, and encourage them to make decisions about it. Give your kid tools that are sized for them, and help them use those tools to harvest their crops. Growing their own vegetables and flowers gives children a sense of accomplishment and pride and promotes healthier eating, too.

In the blog post, we’ll cover when is a good time to get children involved in the garden, as well as offer up some suggestions for age-appropriate tasks that will actually get your kids excited about gardening, no matter how old or young they are.

The perfect gardening tasks for every age

When is the ideal time to introduce kids to gardening? Any time!

Of course, different gardening chores are better suited to certain ages than others, but there are plenty of gardening-related tasks for children of all ages.

Check the list below for some suggestions for age-appropriate tasks and responsibilities for your little gardener-in-training.

Preschoolers (3-4 years old)

Preschoolers have the shortest attention spans, so start them off with simple tasks and be on standby, as this is the age group that needs the most supervision. These kids are sponges in their ability to imitate, so show them how to perform these foundational gardening tasks:

  • Planting large seeds
  • Watering plants
  • Harvesting veggies and fruits

Early elementary school (5-7 years old)

Elementary-age students can spend more time alone entertaining themselves without too much trouble. They can also handle garden chores that take a little more time, like:

  • Watering plants
  • Planting large seeds
  • Pulling weeds
  • Shoveling mulch
  • Harvesting veggies and fruits

Elementary school (8-10 years old)

Let your older elementary-age kiddos take on more autonomy in the garden. Let them raise a seed to a plant with little supervision. They’re an inquisitive group so engage with them when they ask questions. If you don’t know all the answers, that’s okay!

Teach older elementary-age kids some responsibility by adding to their workload:

  • Weeding and mulching beds
  • Watering plants
  • Sowing seeds
  • Transplanting seedlings
  • Pruning plants
  • Cutting flowers for bouquets
  • Pulling beetles & caterpillars off plants
  • Harvesting veggies & fruits
  • Learning about composting

Middle school (11-13 years old)

Middle schoolers are sharp and confident enough to explore a new level of gardening. Let them get competitive with it, and entertain any business ideas they bring forth. You might have a budding botanist or market gardener in the making!

Preteens can take on much more responsibility than younger children, and they’re likely to still be very invested in gardening. Try out these tasks:

  • Planning a garden
  • Weeding and mulching beds
  • Watering plants
  • Sowing seeds
  • Transplanting seedlings
  • Pruning plants
  • Cutting flowers for bouquets
  • Pulling beetles & caterpillars off plants
  • Harvesting veggies & fruits
  • Identifying & managing pests
  • Building beehouses
  • Selling produce & flowers at farmstands

5 ways to engage children in the garden

If you can present gardening as an opportunity for playtime, children will be all that much more likely to participate. Spending time in the garden can help spark creativity and imagination as children design their own unique garden spaces.

  1. Give your child their own garden

Give your little gardener-in-the-making their own space to garden, and they probably won’t feel as much of a need to be with you in yours. Your child’s garden can be a few containers or a an entire row, but make sure they know that space is theirs. Keep it small—you don’t want to overwhelm your child. A plot about as big as a sandbox is perfect for budding gardeners but older and more experienced kids can handle more.

Raised beds are great for kids because they can see the clear boundaries of their garden and won’t be tempted to step inside it. You can also use stepping stones to mark where children should clearly step and where they shouldn’t.

Add to playtime by giving your kids some furniture just for them. Chairs, tables, a bench or two—they’ll love getting to ‘play house’ outside! Want bonus points? Grow a living fort for your kids to enjoy! Use tobacco sticks or bamboo poles to make a tipi and train pole beans to grow up the trellis, creating a shady hideaway underneath. Or, plant sunflowers in a circle and tie the tops together with twine for the same effect.

Reinforce the idea that their garden is a place for exploration and fun, not necessarily a chore if you want to leave them with positive memories and a lasting passion for gardening.

  1. Let your child decide what they want to grow

Let your child make the decisions in their own garden about what to plant and where to plant it.Most kids are drawn to familiar vegetables like cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots, but you can also introduce some quick-growing crops like radishes and lettuce.

Flowers are a must, and fast-growing annuals with larger seeds are the easiest for kids to manage. Think zinnias, sunflowers, and nasturtiums.

If you like, work with your child to create a garden theme that excites them. A pizza garden with basil, oregano, and Roma tomatoes? Yum! What about a fairy garden that features tiny flowers, moss, and garden gnomes? Sounds magical. The sky’s the limit here, so channel your and your child’s imagination!

  1. Give your child kid-size tools

You probably know from experience that having the right tools makes a world of difference, and nowhere is this more true than with kids. Full-size tools are heavy (and not to mention dangerous) so buy a set of safe tools for smaller hands for your kids to use. You can order tiny watering cans, shovels, extra-small gloves, or entire tool kits online or at your nearest garden supply store.

Take an opportunity to instill good habits and teach your child how to clean and put away their tools at the end of the day.

4. Help them enjoy the harvest

Isn’t the harvest why we all agreed to garden in the first place? Teach your little one how to harvest and cook the vegetables they grew. Show them how to cut flowers and transfer them to a vase. Instill a sense of pride in these simple essential tasks.

Plants that children enjoy growing

Larger seeds are easiest for children to handle, and fast-growing plants hold their attention best. Plant a mix of vegetables, flowers, and herbs that are in season at different times of the year. Kids love access to a berry patch (just make sure to use thornless blackberry and raspberry varieties).

Not sure where to find kid-friendly seeds? Check out my online shop for safe, non-GMO seeds your kids are sure to love.

  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Sunflowers
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Pumpkins
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Zinnias
  • Corn

Satefy concerns with kids

Your own safety is important, but as kids have weaker immune systems and smaller bodies their safety is a top priority. Remember that children will tire out more quickly than you do, so pay attention and encourage frequent breaks.

  • Never leave younger children unattended. Even if you let your child entertain themselves, keep within earshot and maintain a clear line of sight at all times
  • Avoid planting any toxic plants near or in your child’s garden. Even if you clearly point out which plants are potentially dangerous, I still wouldn’t risk it. Save the foxgloves and daffodils for when your children are a little older.
  • Never let your little ones spray plants or use chemicals in the garden. Fertilizing and spraying for plants is not a garden chore that you want your kids to help you out with, even if you use organic brands. Save that tasks for adults only.
  • Make sure that your little one wears a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen—summer days are hot and long, plus sunburn will certainly ruin all the fun.
  • Keep an eye on your kiddo to make sure that they’re staying hydrated.

Nature is truly the best teacher, and kids can learn several valuable life skills from observing their caretakers in the garden. Allowing your children some autonomy will provide them with a sense of accomplishment when they succeed in growing a plant form seed to harvest. Collaborating with your child to create their dream garden is a great way to get them excited about spending time outside and eating healthy.

By incorporating elements like colorful flowers, tasty veggies, and whimsical decorations children will be drawn to the garden and eager to explore. Whether it’s planting seeds, watering plants, or watching vegetables grow, the experience of gardening can spark their curiosity and foster a love for nature that will last a lifetime.

To find books, courses, seeds, gardening supplies, and more, check out The Shop at Greenupside!

Join 1000+ gardeners to get access to news, tips, and information.

Delivered right to your inbox – once per week.

If you want to read some of my most popular posts, check out the “Best of GreenUpSide” page here.  Enjoy!


Recent Posts