Gardening with kids can be fun! It’s a great way to teach where food comes from, what fruits and vegetables look like from a seed to a fully grown plant and how to care for them.
What to do first
If you are starting a new garden, begin by letting the kids choose what they want to see grow! You may be surprised on some of their answers. This is a great way to get those picky eaters to try something new. If they have ownership and have nurtured from seed to vegetable, they may be more inclined to taste…maybe! Get some books about gardening. Decide if you want to begin from seed, sprout, or full grown plant. You can even grow some vegetables from your own food scraps!
Include a variety in your garden: vegetables, fruit, herbs and even edible flowers!
Fast growing vegetables like sugar snap peas, beans and greens. Be sure to look up when the growing season is for the fruits and veggies you want, as they may be a fall harvest and you are in spring.
Designate a children’s section or containers that are solely for your child’s garden. This way they have ownership and pride in their work! Get them their own gardening gloves and tools like:
Young children (age 2+) can be helpful in the garden!
- Adding dirt from pile/bag into garden container
- Push down seeds into soil
- Put popsicle sticks/plastic knife/plant marker into ground
- Pull designated weeds or easy to grip veggies
- Fill mini watering can and water plants
Age 3+ all of the above plus
Begin to help prepare and cut the produce using Kid safe knifes:
- Learn together which vegetables are ready to pick and let them pull/pick and add to bucket to bring into kitchen.
- Let them wash/scrub the produce and place on cutting board. With the kid safe knife they will sharpen their fine motor skills- let them eat the vegetable as they chop- part of the fun and learning process of growing their own food! What does this taste like raw? What would it taste like if we cooked it? Does it taste like something you have had? Lots of learning and questions can come up during this time to address.
- Toss vegetables in olive oil, assemble on sheet pan, salt and pepper, season
- Worms! Search for worms in your yard or buy some to add to the garden. Talk about why and how worms make great dirt.
Age 8 and up add
- Measure distance between plants ( use twine to section off segments in garden for square foot gardening)
- Measure how tall plants and how deep to plant (look at instructions)
- Scissors to harvest
- What is ripe? What needs more time? Research/Study each vegetable
- Toss and mix salad greens, snap peas/beans
- Set up bamboo stakes/bean plant tent/vines for tall climbing vegetables like beans and peas
- Pick a vegetable/fruit/herb to feature and make a meal or snack for the family. Create your own recipe or chose a recipe to follow.
- Compost: Begin a compost pile.
Dont know what to grow? Include what you know your kids love: cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, etc. Plant a variety like leafy greens, carrots, beets, onion, sugar snap peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, strawberries, garlic, herbs like basil, rosemary, sage, oregano and add some edible flowers in the mix too!
My favorite resource for all things learning about fruits, vegetables and herbs is VeggieBudsClub.
Get messy, learn, make mistakes and have fun! A life long healthy relationship with food starts now as kids, let’s show them how to nurture and respect our earth, our food and what we eat.
Rachel Brown is a foodie by heart and Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator by trade. A mother of two young children, she is always searching for fun and exciting things to eat and create as a family. Rachel moved here from Nashville, TN in 2016 and is enjoying exploring Huntsville and all the exciting things happening here. You can follow her exciting Huntsville foodie finds on her Instagram @RocketCityDietitian or on FaceBook as Rocket City Dietitian.