Today’s parents have a lot on their plate. We often hear tales about the struggles of managing kids’ screen time, keeping them busy, and encouraging healthy habits. So, why aren’t more kids getting into gardening? Vegetable gardening is an incredible learning experience for kids, with far-reaching benefits that stay with them for life. Here’s why this “old fashioned” hobby is a great response to the modern-day tech obsession, and how to get kids of all ages involved.
Reasons to Get Kids into Gardening
Here’s a little anecdote to put in perspective why getting little hands into the garden is so important. I teach horticulture classes at Humber College and I’m lucky to get to spend time with some very bright, ambitious young people. Yet, what strikes me is how so many of them are completely blown away by the process of watching a plant grow from seed because they’ve never seen it happen before. Many millennials, the up-and-coming generation, are strikingly disconnected from the origins of their food. To them (and I’m not blaming them in any way), most vegetables come from a bag.
I see this is a symptom of a convenience culture that could have harmful effects on future generations. If we grow up without knowing or appreciating where food comes from, how can we make informed decisions about the food we buy, the way we treat our environment, or the lawmakers we vote for?
Beyond these big-picture reasons, there are some immediate benefits to introducing kids to gardening. Many of these have positive, long-term effects, such as:
- It encourages healthier eating: Children are much more likely to eat vegetables they’ve grown themselves.
- It makes planning meals easier: When kids aren’t afraid of veggies, you don’t have to spend time “hiding” them in your meals!
- It gets kids outside: Children are naturally curious, and gardening gives kids the opportunity to find answers in their environment, rather than on a screen.
- It teaches kids how to work for rewards: Kids learn quickly how their actions affect their plants, and the reward factor is huge when their little experiment results in tangible, edible vegetables.
- It teaches a fundamental appreciation for the environment: If we can teach our children why pollinators are important, or how water is essential for all life forms, we’re setting the next generation up to become stewards of our precious plants.
Gardening Projects for Young Kids (3-6)
If your child is old enough to explore their world, they’re old enough to start learning about plants. Start them off with some gardening projects that work for little hands and fingers:
Growing Radishes: You can place a radish seed on a wet paper towel and it’ll germinate! Get little ones to do the easy part by dunking a paper towel in some water, while you place the towel inside a glass jar. Wedge the seed between the glass and the paper towel and keep it near a window. Your child will be able to watch as it grows every day!
Growing Beans: Another easy project; place a damp paper towel in a plastic sandwich bag and have your child place a dry kidney bean inside. Hang the bag over the window and watch it sprout!
Growing Marigolds: Place a plastic pot filled with soil outside and give your child a packet of marigold seeds to plant in the pot. Give them a watering can and let them water the seeds every day. Marigolds grow fast, and kids love the colourful flowers!
Gardening Projects for Older Kids (7+)
I’ve been so impressed by some of the young gardeners who have visited us at Royal City Nursery. Many of them are really keen to learn, not just on how to grow at all, but how to grow bigger and better plants.
Seed Starting is a great kid-friendly project; the equipment (grow lamps, heat mats, peat pellets, and seed starting trays) are easy to handle, and they love trying out different types of plants to see how they do.
Creating a personal garden from a few old pots, a large container, or even an old kiddie pool gives them the space to try their own experiments and learn independently. Young gardeners especially seem to love growing tomatoes and hot peppers; they’re fun to watch as they develop, and kids love growing veggies they recognize.
Attend a workshop, like our Best Vegetable Garden Ever workshop! This kid-friendly event is a perfect bonding activity for a parent and child to do together. Each pair will get one flat of seed starting cells to work on together. Our instructor, Erika, is also a Brownie leader, so she’s very skilled at speaking at the level of the younger participants. However, there’s a lot of information to digest, so the content is ideal for kids over the age of six.
Easy Vegetables for Kids to Grow
Ready to start planting? Try these easy-to-grow, kid-friendly veggies:
- Peppers (both Hot and Sweet)
These flowers are also easy growers, and each of them has edible parts:
As parents, we’re learning about the world through our children’s eyes. Even during those tender early years, there are plenty of ways to make the plant world a part of their world. Bring your little gardener along with you to Royal City Nursery—our friendly team is always happy to share our excitement for plants and gardening with budding young growers!