Gardening With Children

{Disclosure: We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Kinderberry Hill with this post – their Education Coordinator, a mom herself, is sharing tips on continuing learning into summer by gardening with your kids.}

Gardening with Children | Twin Cities Moms Blog

To children, the best gifts from the garden may not be the flowers and vegetables, but rather the beautiful hands-on experiment, full of “what ifs” and wonders, exploration and play!

Children don’t burden themselves with worrying about a plentiful crop. They are simply interested in “right now”! Their gears are always turning. . . “What changed?”, “What can I try?”, “Can I touch it?”, “Pick it?”, “Eat it?” This is the magic of gardening with children; the many opportunities to experiment and explore nature.

At Kinderberry Hill, our center gardens serve as an important part of our summer curriculum, offering rich learning opportunities in science, math, reading, art, literature and more. You too can create a family garden and dig into fun and learning all summer long!

Getting Started. . .

To get started, chat with your child and share ideas about what types of plants they may want to grow. You’ll want to limit these choices to items you have already deemed manageable for your space. Try to pick plants that are hardy for children to walk through, stumble over and sit among. Grasses, chives, green beans, zinnias and even our old rhubarb plant are a few of my family’s favorites, as they are hardy for the tending of little hands and provide great spaces to play.

Gardening with Children | Twin Cities Moms Blog

As with any new gardener, there is a learning curve. (Still working on mine!) This may not be the garden that produces that prize winning tomato, but it will most certainly produce prize worthy amounts of discovery and fun!

Creating a Child Friendly Garden Space. . .

When talking about a child friendly garden space, I’m referring to a place where children can walk where their little feet desire, try new things, and even make (what we might call) “mistakes”. It is quite interesting to see the roots of a bean plant with the bean shell still attached, however this can only be found if you dare to pluck a young sprout too soon! . . . And a new experiment begins: “If we put it back, will it still grow?”

Gardening with Children | Twin Cities Moms Blog

Make sure they have ample hands-on opportunities to care for the plants and space. A specific spot just for digging may be beneficial, as this is often a favorite activity of young gardeners. Giving them their own gloves and watering cans, promotes ownership and responsibility. Beware! You may be surprised by what they find beautiful and precious. My own children cherished the sunny dandelions and would make sure to water them with the rest of their crop!

Try to create spaces for you and your child to sit and enjoy the “quiet” of the garden. (Though these moments may be fleeting!) Small stools, rocks, stepping stones or even old milk crates are nice places for children to sit and take in the sounds, smells and tastes all around them. It is always more fun for children to be completely in and surrounded by the garden, than to simply stand outside and look! For those of you feeling ambitious, the green bean teepee would create this perfect space for you. (Rabbits took our teepee last year, but due to popular demand, we are trying a new strategy and giving it another “go” . . . the experiment continues!)

A Few Built-In Surprises!

Inviting even more nature to your garden is always a plus. Adding bird baths or feeders allow children to experience the different birds and birdsong of their own backyard. Bug houses are always a hit as they take little time to fill with busy tenants and small shovels come in handy for spur of the moment worm digging!

Gardening with Children | Twin Cities Moms Blog

Finally, putting a bucket filled with loose parts such as wood rounds, sea shells, pinecones, small rocks, toy cars, dinosaurs, or fairies will allow your child to create their own fantasy play and truly enjoy being surrounded by the nature growing in their garden. They will have a ball building seashell roads alongside the green beans or tucking the fairy to sleep under a dandelion. (If you too, are lucky enough to sprout one of those rare garden beauties!)

P.S. for more great family garden ideas, activities, crafts and more, click here.

Sara Reichstadt is the Education Coordinator for the six NAEYC-accredited Twin Cities Kinderberry Hill Child Development Centers.  Sara earned a bachelor’s degree in Child Psychology from the University of Minnesota, where she trained in the Shirley G. Moore Lab School.  Sara, who has been with Kinderberry Hill since 1999, has taught in infant, toddler and preschool classrooms as well as serving in management positions.  As Education Coordinator, Sara helps implement curriculum, offer classroom support and conduct teacher trainings.  Sara is also a MNCPD (Minnesota Center for Professional Development) registered trainer in the SEEDS of Early Literacy Program.  She is passionate about early education and helping children, teachers and families.  Sara has two young children and knows firsthand the importance of a quality early education.

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