Kids are great fun in the garden and love learning about growing and harvesting their favorite vegetables, fruits and herbs. According to my colleague Carrie Durward, USU Extension Nutrition Specialist, gardening is a healthy activity for the whole family because:
- Both kids and parents eat more vegetables in homes with gardens,
- Gardens increase the availability of vegetables and help children become more familiar with them,
- Gardens help parents model healthy eating habits to their children, and
- Children in homes with gardens are more willing to try new vegetables, increase their preference in vegetables, and eat more vegetables – a win-win-win for both parents and kids!
Here are 10 tips to get your garden ‘kid-friendly’.
- Create a special garden bed for kids. Maybe you can turn-over a section of your larger garden area or build a raised bed just for the kiddos. Allow them to plan, plant, maintain, and harvest their own garden area.
- Incorporate kids crafts in the garden. Have your kids paint ‘marker’ stones or color garden stakes to mark plants.
- Sneak fun hide-and-seek items into the garden. Maybe you have a garden gnome that mysteriously changes locations throughout the garden when kids are not looking, or ceramic mushrooms that pop-up in different spots. Whatever your child might be attracted to, a sense of mystery and exploration can be promoted through these kinds of interactive games.
- Plant flowers. Flowers add color and interest to the garden and attract the attention of kids. Point out pollinators that visit the flowers and cut blooms to bring indoors and display. Want a quick list of great garden flowers? How about zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers, nasturtiums, sage, borage and marigolds.
- Involve your kids in meal preparation. Ask them to cut some herbs to dress a dish or pull carrots to add to a fresh salad. They will be excited to try the dish if they see the ingredients they just harvested are used in the food.
- Let kids shop seed catalogs with you. Seed catalogs do an amazing job of making you want to try to grow everything! Choose catalogs that sell interesting varieties of garden produce. What kid would not want to try to grow and eat ‘moons and stars’ watermelon or ‘purple haze’ carrots?
- Start seedlings indoors with kids. Kids LOVE to plant seeds and watch them grow into plants.
- Plant garden plants that can be picked and consumed on-site. Kids love to explore gardens with all their senses, including taste! Garden produce like cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, raspberries, strawberries, and grapes can be picked and eaten in the garden. If you are worried about contaminants, provide a fresh water source, like a garden house, next to the garden so kids can wash their treasures off before eating.
- Take pictures of your garden throughout the growing season so kids can document its progress. Perhaps your family will want to put together a scrap book or journal of your family garden to share with others, like relatives, friends, neighbors, or show-and-tell at school.
- Think of fun ways you can teach kids about science and math in the garden. Maybe kids can run an experiment in the garden for their science fair project or practice numbers and colors in the garden – or maybe enter their best produce in the county fair. Encourage kids to make observations and create stories or songs relating to them.
Bonus tip – explore the garden at night with kids. Grab some flashlights and set out for some fun nighttime exploration – you will be amazed at what you find! I love hearing about my friend Stephanie Duer’s childhood memories of snail safari hunts!
These tips are just the tip of the carrot of all the fun things families can do together in the garden. Please leave comments about the fun things you do with your kids in the garden so we can all grow, explore, and have fun together!