8 Kids’ Gardening Ideas That Are Every Bit as Fun as ‘Animal Crossing’
Tired of nagging your kid to cut down on screen time? Then get outside together. Gardening is good for body and soul, and it can help the whole family connect as you watch the seeds you’ve planted sprout. To that end, figuring out where to start can be tricky (can my preschooler be trusted with a trowel?!), so we’re here to help you out. These kid-friendly gardening ideas are a great jumping-off point.
1. Give kids ownership
Get kids involved by having them help you pick out seeds or plants, either online or at the nursery. Trust us: They’ll be much more interested if they have a say in what you’re growing. And get an inexpensive child-sized set of gloves, watering can and garden hand tools, such as a trowel and rake, which will allow them to feel more a part of the process. Even the youngest kids can help plant, water and weed (yeah, that’s not as much fun, we know, but weeding is necessary so the plants you do want won’t compete for water and nutrients with the weeds you don’t want!).
Get started: Kids gardening set ($30)
2. Start small
Although it’s tempting to buy every pretty plant or seed package you and your kid see, it’s better to make your first garden plot manageable so won’t feel overwhelmed. A 10-foot-by-10-foot garden is more than enough for beginners—there’s plenty of space but not too much to keep up with the weeds. Raised beds, pots or containers also are a good way to get started, especially if your soil isn’t that great. Plus, pots and containers will fit on a deck or balcony if you don’t have a yard, and you can move them wherever you want.
Get started: Galvanized raised flower beds ($70)
3. Grow your own veggies
Kids tend to gravitate toward things that are very small (cherry tomatoes!) or gigantic (giant sunflowers!). Other kid-friendly plants include mini pumpkins or pole beans, which you can grow up bamboo poles you’ve lashed together at the top to create a hideout. It’s also fun to plant a themed garden, such as a pizza garden, with tomatoes, basil, oregano, and garlic. And no worries if you didn’t start gardening this spring; many veggies, such as lettuce, spinach, kale, and radishes, can be planted in late summer for a fall harvest.
Get started: Backyard safari pizza garden ($13)
4. Attract pollinators
Besides adding beauty and color to your garden, annual and perennial flowers provide a great habitat for pollinators, such as butterflies and hummingbirds. Hummingbirds are especially appealing to kids of all ages. Since these little birds beat their wings up to 90 times per second, they need to eat every 10 to 15 minutes, which means they could visit your flowers up to 2,000 times a day. Plant some of their favorites, such as cuphea, fuchsia, torenia, and scarlet runner bean to invite them to your garden.
Get started: Scarlet runner beans seeds ($7)
5. Plant bulbs
This one’s more of an exercise in patience, but it does teach kids about nature and the cycle of life. Plant spring-blooming bulbs, such as daffodils, crocuses and hyacinths in the fall to flower next spring. Though you won’t experience instant gratification now, just when you’ve had enough cold and grey skies, you’ll both be thrilled to see bright colors popping up in your landscape next spring. Pay attention to your USDA Hardiness zone (find yours here), so you’ll know what types can survive winter in your area.
Get started: 10 daffodil bulbs ($10)
6. Create a fairy garden
If your kids are young, fairy gardens are a fun way to get creative and build a miniature world together. Find a pot or a spot under a large tree, then add miniature flowers such as alyssum or tiny succulents. Found or repurposed objects, such as rocks, pine cones, and popsicle sticks, and can be used to make paths, little “trees,” and houses.
Get started: 11 succulents ($23)
7. Keep a journal
It doesn’t have to be fancy, but you or your child should scribble down the date you planted something and the variety. Or tape plant tags or empty seed packages into a notebook so you remember what you planted together (no, you will not remember next year!). Snap a few pics every couple of weeks to watch the progress. You’ll both be amazed at how quickly things grow. Note what didn’t do well, too, so you don’t waste your time again. There are too many other fun choices, so plant something different next year!
Get started: Gardeners journal ($8)
8. Welcome all the little creatures
There are plenty of ways to liven up your yard: Add toad houses and birdhouses, which you can build or paint, throughout your garden. Set up bird feeders (birds will use them year-round if you keep them supplied). Choose a birdbath together, and keep it filled with fresh water. Hummingbirds can’t use birdbaths, but they will fly through a misting fountain; look for inexpensive solar-activated types. And if you discover a weird bug eating your plant or a kind of butterfly you’ve never seen, research it with your kid. Free apps such as iNaturalist and Plants Map can help you learn about what you’re seeing. After all, discovery is part of the joy of gardening!
Get started: Wooden birdhouse kit ($10)