“One of the most important resources that a garden makes available for use, is the gardener’s own body. A garden gives the body the dignity of working in its own support. It is a way of rejoining the human race.”
The sky is sunny, temperatures have risen to comfortable levels and the back yard is calling but you’ve got small (or maybe not so small) kids to keep an eye on. How can you garden with them around? Bring them out with you and provide them with a bit of space for them to work with! Kids love to dig in the dirt and given the opportunity, they will dig and weed and plant right along side of you.
I have taught enough kids classes to see how parents often forget that kids learn best by doing. Just as you can’t expect a child to create a beautiful masterpiece the first time they hold a paint brush in their hand, you can’t expect them to be perfect in the garden their first try. But given time, kids learn quickly and can be quite helpful with weeding, pruning, planting and harvesting once they’ve been shown the way.
How do you get them started? Give them their own child-sized tools.
But not cheap plastic ones. Invest in some nice wooden handled, metal tools. These are some of our favorite tools to have on hand for the garden…
A spade or hand trowel
Small shovels can be handy for digging small holes in the ground for planting plants or helping with digging up weeds.
Sometimes you just need to hoe a row. Kids love to use hoes for weeding and even if you’re practicing permaculture gardening techniques, sometimes a patch gets away from you and the necessity to weed is there. Having a kid sized hoe makes this a fun chore for kids to do.
A wooden dibble
These tools are great for punching a hole in the ground to plant seedlings, bulbs and seeds. Kids will love having one and if yours are like mine, they’ll love doing this to help plant!
Though they probably won’t care about getting their hands dirty, they may need a pair if you’re working with tenacious plants such as Nettles, Thistle and Poison Ivy.
If there’s going to be hauling involved, a child sized wheel barrow is another great tool to have. My kids love being able to haul their own debris to the compost pile.
A pot maker
If you are starting your own seeds, this handy tool converts newspapers into plantable pots!
A garden tote
These are great for teaching your kids responsibility…a place for everything and everything in its place. They can stash their tools in this handy tote to carry to/from the garden. A garden tote should be large enough that they can stash a journal, plant markers, a writing instrument, gloves and the seeds they are planting in addition to their garden tools.
As an adult, one of my favorite tools is the hori knife. I haven’t found a kid-sized one but my kids have learned to use mine safely in the garden.
A Garden journal
Keeping track of what you plant, when you planted it, and care instructions are best kept in their own journal. It’s great to be able to look back on it over the years, and for this reason, I love the Lee Valley 10 year garden journal.
Besides tools, what else can help kids to enjoy working in the garden?
Give them their own garden plot.
Mark off a space for them to garden. Let them choose what to plant and where to plant it in their space. The first couple of years the garden may be a mess but over time, they will learn proper spacing and companion planting.
Give them their own seeds.
Let them pick out 3 – 5 seeds to grow. Younger kids might enjoy watching sunflowers and squash plants while older kids will enjoy growing their own herbs. Some great sources for gmo-free heirloom seeds are:
Learning through doing.
Younger kids like to mimic adult activities. Bringing your toddler to the garden may sound like a disaster but if you start off working in hardier locations, you can start teaching them what to pull and what to keep. At the same time, they can start identifying those ‘weeds’ that you might not want growing in your garden patch that are good medicinal and edibles. Weeding the garden becomes harvesting dinner.
Books and resources for gardening with kids.
Want more inspiration for gardening with kids? Check out these books!
Activities for Gardening
Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars by Sharon Lovejoy
Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children by Sharon Lovejoy
Sunflower Houses: Inspiration From the Garden – A Book for Children and Their Grown-Ups by Sharon Lovejoy
Project Garden: A Month-by-Month Guide to Planting, Growing, and Enjoying ALL Your Backyard Has to Offer by Stacy Tornio
Storybooks about Seeds and Gardens
How a Seed Grows by Helene J. Jordan
The Magic School Bus Plants Seeds: A Book About How Living Things Grow by Joanna Cole
Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth by Mary McKenna Siddals
Do your kids enjoy working in the garden? What tools do your kids like in the garden? Do they get their own patch to work in? If so, what do they like to plant?