Mar 16, 2012
Three simple ways to engage kids with gardening
Theresa Loe  Associate Producer | Growing A Greener World

Get those kids outside! Theresa Loe shares asy tips how.

I’m all about getting kids out into the garden while teaching them environmental stewardship and sustainable gardening practices. In our own city garden in Los Angeles my kids and I compost, raise chickens and grow our own vegetables year round.

When parents see how my kids love to garden, they often ask how they can peel their own children away from the video screen long enough to get them started in gardening, too. Surprisingly, it’s easy! Just spend time with your kids planting something, anything, and make it a scientific adventure. The seeds and plants will do the rest.

If you want to introduce your kids to gardening, here are three simple ideas to get you started:

1) Grow one seed in a pot or a cup on the kitchen table. Why the kitchen table? Well, it is a place where your kids not only walk by several times a day but they will also sit for short periods of time (meals and homework) staring at the emerging seed. Without even realizing it, they will be studying the plant and noticing the marvels of how it came out of that tiny seed. You will soon find that they are stopping by at other times to see how it is doing. (Suggested seeds to try: nasturtiums, beans, sunflowers, and zinnias)

2) You really don’t need a big space to teach gardening. In fact, a small space is better because it stays manageable and fun. Start an edible garden in a large flowerpot outside the back door. Let your child, no matter what age, pick the theme of the container garden (salsa, pizza, butterfly, salad, flower, etc.) and then go together to pick the seeds, plants, soil and container. For that small investment of money you will have a yearlong project that your child will take pride in growing.

3) Yes, I said lease! If you already have a garden, lease a small portion (just a few square feet) to your kids. This works especially well for older kids who have graduated from the seed-in-a-cup phase. Let your children have ownership of this land to grow something marvelous. Depending upon their age, you can even have fun drawing up “the lease papers” and deciding upon “payment.” I suggest a one-time fee of one vegetable to be used in a meal or one flower from the garden to be displayed prominently in the home. Then you provide the supplies and guidance and let them go to it. What happens is amazing. As they take ownership, they begin to feel grown up. They learn responsibility and a wealth of other life lessons.

What other ideas have you tried to get kids turned on by gardening? Share them in the comments section below.

Reader Comments (5)
Love the lease idea! You could actually give them a loan (with interest) to buy the seeds/compost/etc., and then buy back the vegetables they produce.
Saturday, March 17, 2012 | Phil (Smiling Gardener)
Teaching kids to gardening is really fun. To make it more interesting , we can arrange their birthday party in the same garden , where they have worked.
Thursday, March 29, 2012 | Lisa
I LOVE the book, Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots by Sharon Lovejoy. I initially checked it out of my local library then had to get a copy for myself. There are all sorts of GREAT ideas for easy gardening with kids in it. From easy containers (old straw hat, old gloves) to "Kid" gardens (sunny garden with sunflower walls with morning glory roof, a night time garden with a teepee and 4 o'clocks). The book is also laced with great easy science-like projects like "Moth Tea" to attract and observe moths. I've started a few of the easy projects and hope to work my way through each of the theme gardens over years to come with my kids.
Thursday, April 19, 2012 | Jennifer
Until I found this I thought I'd have to spend the day inside.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012 | Miguel
I love all the different colours and shapes – the Artemesia is really lovely – I just love mine too. Maybe leave it in its own pot. I have two in barrels and they do well – a bit overgrown, but I remember that they can’t just be planted into your garden because their roots can be toxic to other plants. Must do some research on that.
Monday, August 20, 2012 | Goa Flowers
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