Nifty ways to make gardening fun for kids

To get kids interested in sowing seeds, I've come up with a few quirky ideas, which involve egg shells, ice cream cones, stuffed animals and more

Nifty ways to make gardening fun for kids

Photo credit: Christine Latreille

Walking on newly-thawed patches of grass, and seeing colourful crocus starting to peek through the ground is enough to forget about wet mittens and slushy sidewalks.

So put your winter coats and boots away and grab a trowel: spring has sprung, and that means it’s time to garden.

Gardening with children is engaging, enriching, and doable whether you have a sunny backyard or a small balcony. From picking seeds and prepping containers, to planting and harvesting, gardening is a great way to engage kids’ natural curiosity. Learning how to grow vegetables and fruits from seeds is a great skill for all ages, and is a hands-on approach to learning about what we eat and how to grow it.

“We’ve observed that the benefits of gardening with children are numerous. On the one hand, the connection with nature becomes very concrete when you put your hands in the ground to make something grow. On the other hand, there are many scientific lessons that can be learned while having fun. And, it also has many collateral benefits. Indeed, by gardening, children learn a sense of commitment and responsibility, not to mention patience and humility.” Charles Girard Boudreault, Coordonnateur en loisirs scientifiques, Espace pour la vie day camps/ Youth Gardens Program

A healthy activity for the whole family 

Gardening naturally incorporates physical activity and sensory stimulation. Scooping and watering all help develop children’s motor skills; while playing in the dirt, listening to the trickling of water, and connecting with nature lets kids use all their senses. Playing in dirt can also make us happy and healthy, while exposure to nature has been proven to lessen stress and anxiety.

Choosing and growing their own crops can encourage kids to try out new foods. Purple carrots? Cool! Beans fresh from the vine? Yum! A garden all their own is also a good lesson in responsibility. Supply kids with a journal to keep track of watering and growth, and they can see what works, and what could be tweaked for next year.

We could all benefit from less stress, more physical activity, and nourishing vitamin D. With so many benefits, it makes sense to have gardening as a whole-family activity.

Gardening at home

Growing fruits and veggies isn’t limited to a heated greenhouse or acres of tilled gardens. Whether you have a sunny windowsill to grow a few herbs, a spot in the backyard for some pots or a raised garden, or space on your balcony for a few tomato plants, there are options for everyone. Gardening also doesn’t have to be expensive. Dollar stores sell inexpensive ready-to-go kits with pot, soil, and seeds; you can reuse plastic salad containers as an excellent starter location for your seedlings, or up-cycle discarded toys like this truck into creative planters.

If you’re ready to get your hands dirty and test out your green thumb, have a look at these fun and imaginative ideas for kid-friendly gardening.

Pole garden tent

Use old shovel handles, tall branches, bamboo stakes, or even a kit from your local hardware centre to make an adorable backyard tent. Stake the poles in the ground to form a tent shape, plant your beans around the perimeter, and they’ll grow tall and strong along the poles towards the sky creating a cozy inside nook for summer play. Don’t want beans? Try using sweet peas, or green willow branches.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by @devourandconquer

Get the animals involved

Round up all those little (play) critters scattered around the house, a tray or container, soil, and use items found in the yard or on a neighbourhood walk to help create this pint-sized farm. Would the toy pig like to live in a Popsicle stick castle surrounded by radishes? Why not.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Kidsdogardening (@kidsdogardening)

Small space gardening

You can basically make anything out of a pallet, so why not a tidy garden. Pallets are available at lumber yards, garden centres, home improvement stores, and industrial parks. I know, because I’ve picked up some of them for this same project! Place them flat down on the ground over newspaper or landscaping fabric, fill the gaps between the wood slats with soil, and plant your seeds or flowers. Pallets will keep your garden contained, and eliminate some of the weeds. You can also lean one against a wall and use it as shelving. Make it a two-for-one project and get crafty with the paint for a one-of-a-kind creation.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Alyssa Magnuson (@eyylyssa)

Unusual (and inexpensive) pots

Keep your eggs shells or buy a box of ice cream cones to make neat biodegradable starter pots for seedlings. Once they’ve grown big enough, dig a small hole in your indoor or outdoor garden and plop the whole thing in (just cut out the bottom of the ice cream cone first). You can also use non-shiny newspaper from the recycling bin to make plant pots. Simply fold a strip of newspaper around a can or drinking cup, fold in the bottom to create a base, remove the can and tuck in the top edges. Add soil and plant your seeds.  When it’s time to bring your seedlings outside, place the whole pot in the ground, newspaper and all. Pots will last a few weeks before breaking down.

Wall gardens create vertical options

If you don’t have a flat space, don’t fret, this shower caddy hack has got you covered. Hang a metal shower caddy up against the side of your house/balcony/patio with the appropriate hooks, add in some herbs or flowers in pots, and voila, an easy and cute garden.