Getting the kids involved in growing some food at home is one of my very favorite ways to expose them to veggies in a low pressure way. Plus: It’s super fun! Here are easy kids gardening ideas, including the best plants for kids, how to set up a kid’s garden, and more!
Kids Gardening Ideas
Okay, first things first: My husband is the primary gardener in our house. I like to say that he figures out how to grow it and I figure out how to cook it. It’s a nice divide-and-conquer strategy! And from the time that our oldest was one, we’ve had kids in the garden with us…whether intentionally or not! Over the years, we’ve learned a few very practical strategies for involving the kids in the garden to grow some food, learn about biology (in the most laid back way possible!) and be productive outside.
TIP: I warn you that much of the time, kids will do a gardening activity and then just wind up playing in the dirt. Which is fine too!
10 Best Plants for Kids Gardening
It’s easy to make things more complicated than needed when gardening with kids, so the easiest way to simplify is to choose plants wisely. Below are my top ten picks for kid-friendly plants to grow at home based on ease of growing, low maintenance as they mature, and fun foods that they can eat out in the garden. You can pick and choose 1-2 of these to start with, then expand out if you prefer—you don’t need to do all 10!
TIP: These are general recommendations, but you’ll always want to check the seed packet to make sure any one variety is appropriate for your growing zone. Find your growing zone here.
Once planted, these just need time to grow. My kids like to look in the dirt for the top of the carrot and yes, we almost always pull some when they’re still little!
Variety pick: Nelson’s Carrots
2. Lettuce (Spring Mix or Lettuce Heads)
Either spring mix, where the leaves grow individually, or lettuce heads are great plants for kids to grow. They grow quickly and regrow if you cut them off with scissors about an inch above the base of the plant.
Variety pick: Baby lettuce
3. Kale (Curly or Flat Lacinato or Dinosaur Kale)
Kale is super sturdy and the leaves are easy for kids to pick. Plus, new leaves grow back once you pick them!
Variety pick: Curly kale
4. Cherry Tomatoes
A cherry tomato plant is fun to have since the kids can eat them fresh from the plant in the garden later in the summer. (I find they eat them outside even if they aren’t interested in them at the table!)
Variety pick: Sungold
This veggie is easy to grow and fun to watch get larger…and it’s pretty fool proof in most climates.
My kids love having a cucumber plant to eat fresh cucs from and it’s amazing that they literally seem to grow a few inches overnight!
For the past few years, my kids have helped to plant seed potatoes, then a few months later, they’ve helped dig them up! This is more of a plant it and forget it sort of a thing, but the planting and harvesting parts are really fun. (And dirty!)
8. Butternut Squash
When the flowers bloom, the kids can admire their color and then they can watch them turn into baby squash that continues to grow!
9. Mini Watermelon
You can grow a regular watermelon, but mini ones mature faster so we don’t have to be quite as patient as we wait for them to become ready to eat.
10. Green Beans
These are fun to pick and usually do well even where it’s hot all summer long—and my kids always amaze me when they nibble on them raw.
Variety pick: Provider green beans
TIP: Consider gardening with the kids a low cost experiment to see which parts of it (and which foods) they prefer to do and grow!
How to Set Up a Kids Garden, Step-by-Step
Here’s the process we go through when getting our kids garden set up each spring.
1. Start Small
If you’re gardening for the first time or it’s the first time that the kids will be more involved, try not to make a giant garden…or at least realize that they can turn into a fair amount of work. If the garden is just for the kids, I’d suggest making it no more than a few square feet, if not just a few containers.
2. Order Seeds Together
Look through a seed catalog and choose the plants they want to grow. Consider letting them pick out a few flowers too! Be sure to check that the plants you choose are appropriate to grow in your growing zone.
3. Consider Buying Plants
If you don’t want to start plants from seed, you can buy seedlings. Look at the seed packet and check to see how many days it says it will take the plant to reach maturity…if that time will be in October or November and it’s usually something you eat in the summer, you might need to go with a seedling that has a head start. Call a local nursery to see what your options are.
4. Make it Accessible
You’ll want the garden to be easy for the kids to reach, so consider where you put it and that it’s easy for the kids to water and harvest from. (This is especially true with larger plots. Make sure you leave some room for walking paths so you can get to the plants on the inside!)
5. Consider Containers
One of the easiest ways to start a garden for kids is to use a container or two. Start with one cherry tomato plant and one container with lettuce, for example, and see how into it they are!
Garden Chore Chart
This chart is an easy way to help the kids remember what they need to do to take care of their plants. Keep it by the back door or laminate it and keep it in the garage or shed so it’s available for easy reference.
Kids Garden Ideas: Teach them How to Water Properly
Most little kids will want to water and water and water…which will likely be too much for the plants. Stay with them as they learn how to water and help them to move their watering can around to spread the liquid love out. The amount of water a plant needs will depend on where you live, how hot it is, and the humidity, but generally speaking we water once a day in the summer when it’s warm and the soil dries out quickly.
TIP: Raised beds tend to have better drainage than plots in the regular ground, so they may need to be watered more frequently.
Kid-Friendly Ideas for Garden Produce
Here are some of my favorite ways to cook up the garden produce for the kids!
- Healthy Carrot Cake Muffins
- Simple Sauteed Carrots
- Kids Salad
- Zucchini Fritters
- Zucchini Banana Blueberry Muffins
- Cheesy Kale Bites
- Sesame Green Beans