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
Ever since I first met my husband, he’s been an avid gardener. Each year in the late winter, he starts seedlings under heat lamps in our basement and works with the kids to get it all planted each spring. And while I’m not directly involved (I’m just responsible for cooking what they grow!), I’ve learned a few things that make gardening with kids easier.
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 while spending time together. This can be both fun and entertaining, and also a great way to grow some of your own food.
TIP: Remember that kids have short attention spans and that may mean that gardening activities turns into playing in the dirt. Which is fine!
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 everything 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 kid-friendly foods that they can eat out in the garden or at the table.
You can pick and choose as few or as many of these as you like. 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.
TIP: Local farmers also have a wealth of information on varieties that do well in specific areas. Chat one up at the farmer’s market (and be sure to sample what they grow too).
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 so the plan grows all season long (and sometimes even through the winter).
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 often 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 foolproof in most climates.
My kids love having a cucumber plant to snack from in the garden. And it’s always fun to see how fast they grow overnight!
Variety pick: Sweet Success
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!)
Variety pick: Yukon Gold
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!
Variety pick: Butternut Winter Squash
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.
Variety pick: Sugar Baby
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. Adjust this as needed for what you plan to do, and the space you have. If you plan to start your own seeds, you’ll usually want to get them going no later than March. (Check the seed packages for timing advice.)
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 Seedlings
If you don’t want to start plants from seed, you can buy seedlings, which is easier. This also requires much less (as in, zero) advance planning since you can simply go buy them at a local nursery or farmer’s market in the spring. This option is also nice since you can buy them and plant them in the garden together right away!
4. Make it Physically Accessible for the Kids
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 Container Gardening
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!
Teach them How to Water Properly
Most little kids will want to water and water and water because water is fun—but that’s likely going to drown 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. Watering in the morning or evening can decrease the amount that evaporates in the heat and increase the amount that goes into the soil, which is an easy way to save water!
TIP: Raised beds tend to have better drainage than plots in the regular ground, so they may need to be watered more frequently.
Best Kids Garden Tools
You don’t need much to get into the garden, but a few sturdy tools can be helpful. We like to have garden gloves, a watering can, and little tools. (These are a great addition to an Easter basket!)
TIP: Find my full list of kids gardening tools here.
Best Kids Watering Cans
We’ve gone through a lot of watering cans over the years—my kids love watering all the things so much. I’ve vetted the options to help you pick one that will last for years and save money too!
TIP: Find my top picks for durable watering cans here.
Kid-Friendly Ideas for Garden Produce
Here are some of my favorite ways to cook up the garden produce for the kids!
- Sauteed Carrots
- Healthy Carrot Cake Muffins
- Simple Sauteed Carrots
- Kids Salad
- Zucchini Fritters
- Zucchini Banana Blueberry Muffins
- Cheesy Kale Bites
- Sesame Green Beans
- Easy Boiled Green Beans
Best Tips for Gardening with Kids
- Start small to avoid being overwhelmed.
- Let the kids get their hands in the dirt so they can explore the texture.
- Be with them as they water to avoid drowning the plants.
- Choose durable plants that need little maintenance as they grow to keep things easy.
- Consider gardening in containers to keep things simple.
- Check your gardening zone and talk with local farmers and folks at your nursery for advice specific to your area.