Gardening with toddlers can be a fun and rewarding activity for both kids and adults. In this post, we’ll share tips and tricks for making gardening with toddlers easy and enjoyable. We’ll cover the best vegetables to grow with toddlers, the tools and supplies you’ll need, and how to create a child-friendly vegetable garden. Let’s get started!
Gardening is a fun and educational activity for children of all ages, and it can be especially beneficial for toddlers. It is a great way to encourage their curiosity and creativity while teaching them about the natural world. Toddlers can learn about plants, insects, and the environment through hands-on exploration in the garden. Plus, growing their own vegetables can be an exciting way to introduce healthy eating habits.
At What Age Should You Start Gardening?
You can start gardening with kids as young as two years old, depending on their developmental abilities and interest. At this age, toddlers can start to explore the textures and colors of different plants and may enjoy simple gardening activities such as watering plants and picking flowers. As children get older and their attention spans and fine motor skills improve, they can take on more complex gardening tasks such as planting seeds, weeding, and harvesting. By involving kids in gardening at a young age, you can help instill a love of nature and healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime.
How Does Gardening with Toddlers Help Child Development?
As parents, we’re always looking for fun and engaging ways to support our children’s development. One activity that you might not have considered yet is gardening with your toddler. Not only is it a great way to spend time outdoors, but there are also many developmental benefits. While it might sound like a messy and challenging activity, it’s actually a great way to promote your child’s development in many different areas. From fine motor skills to emotional regulation, gardening can have a big impact on your child’s growth and learning.
Fine motor skills: Gardening activities, such as planting seeds and pulling weeds, require using small muscles in the hands and fingers, helping to develop fine motor skills. This will help with your child’s foundation of handwriting.
Sensory exploration: Gardening provides a rich sensory experience, with opportunities to touch, smell, and taste different plants.
Physical activity: Gardening involves physical activity such as digging, watering, and carrying bags of soil, helping to develop gross motor skills and promoting physical health.
Language development: Gardening provides opportunities for toddlers to learn and use new vocabulary related to plants, gardening tools, and the natural world, helping to develop language skills.
Science exploration: Gardening introduces toddlers to basic scientific concepts such as observing and exploring the natural world, cause and effect, and life cycles.
Cognitive development: Gardening can support cognitive development by encouraging toddlers to make observations, solve problems, and engage in critical thinking. For example, they might observe the differences between seeds and plants, figure out how to plant seeds at the right depth, or troubleshoot problems with pests or plant diseases.
Exposure to healthy foods: Gardening allows toddlers to learn about where their food comes from and encourages them to try new fruits and vegetables, helping to develop healthy eating habits. It can also encourage a sense of responsibility and pride in growing their own food.
Emotional development: Gardening provides a sense of accomplishment and pride in nurturing and growing plants, helping to develop positive self-esteem and emotional regulation.
Connection to nature: Gardening helps toddlers develop a sense of connection and respect for the natural world, promoting a sense of environmental responsibility and appreciation for the beauty of nature.
Relaxation and stress relief: Gardening can be a calming and relaxing activity, providing natural stress relief for both toddlers and adults. It can also help toddlers learn coping skills and develop emotional regulation techniques.
Bonding and social skills: Gardening with toddlers can be a great way to bond and spend quality time together. It can also provide opportunities for social interaction with other children or family members, helping to develop social skills and emotional intelligence.
Understanding sustainability: Gardening teaches children about the importance of sustainability and the impact of their choices on the environment. When toddlers grow their own food, they learn the importance of caring for the earth, reducing waste, and using resources wisely. This can help foster a sense of environmental responsibility and encourage children to make more sustainable choices in the future.
Creativity: Gardening provides opportunities for creative expression, such as designing a garden layout, decorating plant pots, or creating garden art.
Tips for Gardening with Toddlers
Keep it simple: Toddlers have short attention spans, so keep gardening activities short and simple. Choose easy-to-grow plants and quick projects to keep them engaged and interested. And remember they may just end up digging for worms while you actually weed the garden.
Make it fun: Incorporate play into gardening activities by making up games or singing songs. For example, you can play “I Spy” to encourage your child to notice different plants or insects in the garden.
Give them their own space: Consider giving your toddler their own small garden plot or container garden. This will give them a sense of ownership and responsibility, and allow them to see the fruits of their labor.
Use child-sized tools: Make sure that the gardening tools you provide are appropriate for your child’s size and ability. This will not only keep them safe but also help them feel more confident and capable in the garden.
Emphasize sensory experiences: Toddlers love to touch and explore, so emphasize sensory experiences in the garden. Encourage them to feel the different textures of soil, leaves, and flowers, and let them smell herbs and flowers.
Get creative: Gardening can be a great opportunity for creativity and imagination. Encourage your child to create garden art or make their own plant markers.
Keep it safe: Be sure to supervise your toddler closely while gardening to ensure that they are safe and not eating or touching anything potentially harmful. Consider using organic gardening methods to avoid exposure to harmful chemicals.
What Can I Plant in My Toddler’s Garden? Best Vegetables for Gardening with Toddlers
Carrots are a fantastic vegetable to grow with preschoolers because they are easy to plant and care for, making them a great choice for even the youngest of gardeners. Additionally, carrots come in different colors, such as orange, purple, yellow, and white, which can be a fun learning experience for preschoolers as they discover the variety in nature.
Carrot Growing Tips: To plant carrots, choose a spot in your garden with well-draining soil and full sun. Make shallow furrows with your finger or a small gardening tool, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Place carrot seeds in the furrows, cover them with a thin layer of soil, and water gently. Carrots need consistent moisture to germinate, so make sure to keep the soil moist.
Once the carrot seedlings have sprouted, thin them out so that they are about 2-3 inches apart. This will give them enough room to grow into mature carrots. As the carrots grow, make sure to keep the soil consistently moist and weed-free. Carrots can be harvested when they reach the desired size, typically about 2-3 months after planting. Preschoolers will love the excitement of pulling up their own homegrown carrots and enjoying them raw as a snack.
Tomatoes are a great vegetable to grow with toddlers because they are fast-growing and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors which can be exciting for preschoolers. You can grow cherry tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, and even purple tomatoes. Each variety has a unique flavor and texture, so you can encourage your child to try different types of tomatoes. There is nothing better than eating a warm tomato off the vine.
Tomatoes can be eaten raw or cooked, which makes them versatile in the kitchen. Toddlers can help pick the ripe tomatoes from the plant, wash them, and eat them as a healthy snack. You can also involve them in cooking activities, such as making tomato sauce for pasta or adding diced tomatoes to a salad.
Tomato Growing Tips: Tomatoes are easy to plant and care for. You can start tomato plants from seeds or seedlings, and they can be grown in containers or in the ground. Tomatoes like warm weather and plenty of sun, so be sure to choose a location that gets at least six hours of sunlight per day. When planting tomatoes, make sure to space them at least two feet apart to allow for proper growth. Make sure you provide support for your tomato plants, such as stakes or tomato cages, to help them grow upright. Lastly watch out for common tomato pests and diseases, such as tomato hornworms or blossom end rot, and take action if necessary. This is a great activity for your little one to look for.
Snap peas are an ideal vegetable to grow with preschoolers for several reasons. First, they are easy to pick and eat straight from the vine, making them a great snack option for little ones. Second, they grow on vines, which can be a fun and interactive element for children to explore and observe. Lastly, snap peas are a good source of protein, which can help to encourage healthy eating habits in young children.
Snap Peas Planting Tips: To plant and care for snap peas, start by choosing a sunny location with well-draining soil. You can plant snap peas directly in the ground or in a container. Sow the seeds about 1 inch deep and 2 inches apart, and water them regularly to keep the soil moist. As the snap peas grow, provide them with support such as a trellis or stakes to climb on. This can also add an element of fun for children to watch the vines grow and climb. Finally, be sure to harvest the snap peas frequently to encourage continued growth and production.
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Growing radishes with toddlers can be a fun and rewarding experience. These fast-growing veggies are perfect for short attention spans, as they can go from seed to harvest in just a few weeks. Radishes are also great for small spaces and can even be grown in containers. Plus, they come in a variety of colors and shapes, which can make for a fun and interesting gardening experience for kids.
Radish Planting Tips: When planting radishes, make sure to plant the seeds about an inch deep in well-drained soil. Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged, and thin the seedlings to about an inch apart once they emerge. With a little bit of care and attention, your toddlers will be able to harvest and enjoy their homegrown radishes in no time.
Lettuce is another great vegetable to grow with preschoolers because it’s easy to grow and comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. It’s also versatile and can be used in salads, sandwiches, and wraps.
Lettuce Planting Tips: Choose a location that gets partial shade, especially during the hottest parts of the day. Plant lettuce seeds in loose, well-draining soil that has been amended with compost or other organic matter. Sow seeds thinly and cover lightly with soil. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged, and avoid overhead watering to prevent fungal diseases. Thin seedlings to allow for proper spacing and airflow. Harvest lettuce leaves when they reach the desired size, or cut the entire head at once.
Other vegetables to consider
- Cucumbers-Cucumbers are a fantastic vegetable to grow with toddlers due to their fast-growing nature, interesting shapes, and mild flavor. Kids will love watching the vines quickly spread and seeing the many different shapes and sizes of cucumbers that can grow. Additionally, cucumbers are an excellent addition to salads, sandwiches, and snacks, providing a healthy and refreshing treat for your little ones.
- Zucchini and Summer Squash- Zucchini and summer squash grow abundantly. They grow quickly, so children can see the results of their efforts in a relatively short amount of time. Additionally, squash plants produce a large amount of fruit, so there is plenty to share and enjoy. If you have too much or forget to have one so it becomes massive they are extremely versatile in cooking and baked goods as well.
- Green Beans– Green beans like peas grow exponentially and typically produce a ton. This is a plant that you can go out to the garden almost daily and harvest more.
- Potatoes– Potatoes are great because they can be grown in a container so they don’t take up a lot of space. The fun comes during harvest digging out all the potatoes you grew. Your toddlers will love discovering the hidden treasures beneath the soil.
- Flowers– Wildflowers are great for toddlers because you never know what you will get and they require very little upkeep. Wildflowers also support pollinators and beneficial insects in your garden. Your toddler will have a lot of fun making bouquets. Mammoth Sunflowers are also a lot of fun because of how tall they get. You can measure their size each week.
How to Get Your Toddler Involved in the Garden-Daily Gardening Activities with Toddlers
Watering plants: Toddlers can help water plants with a watering can or spray bottle, learning about the importance of water for plant growth. This is also a great heavy work activity for sensory processing and emotional regulation.
Checking for ripe fruits and vegetables: Toddlers can help check for ripe fruits and vegetables. Checking these things daily helps with patience especially in the beginning when nothing is ready. It is also extremely rewarding when you find your first plant ready. Eating something directly out of the garden will spark such joy and accomplishment in your child.
Collecting everything: The garden is always changing and there are lots of things to collect like rocks, seed pods, flowers, sticks, feathers, and expired bugs. These treasures can be kept in a nature box or used in art and crafts.
Weeding: Toddlers can help remove weeds from the garden. This is a great fine motor and sometimes physical strength activity. This will also keep pest populations down and is a great fine motor skill.
Exploring garden bugs: Checking both the top and underside of leaves is extremely important for pest control. It can also tell you a lot about the health of your plant. Toddlers can learn about different bugs that live in the garden and determine which ones are beneficial and which aren’t. This is also an excellent time to talk about life cycles because you find eggs, juvenile, and adult insects all on the same leaf. My son’s favorite thing is to go hunting for bugs.
Smelling flowers and herbs: Toddlers can smell the different flowers in the garden, learning about their fragrances and colors. They can also help pick herbs from the garden to add them to their meals to explore different flavors.
Mulching and Laying Down Compost: Mulching or laying down compost is another great heavy work activity. Loading and unloading the wheelbarrow is a fantastic physical activity for your toddler. Just make sure you have the right size gardening tools. They also lead to discussions about plant nutrients and sustainability. Composting is a fantastic way to feed your garden with kitchen scraps while mulch keeps out weeds and maintains soil moisture.
Tools and Supplies You Need for Gardening with Toddlers
Having the right size gardening tools for kids is important for a few reasons. First, it ensures that the tools are safe for them to use. If a tool is too big or heavy, it can be difficult for a child to control. This can lead to potential accidents and injuries. Second, properly sized tools allow children to work more efficiently and effectively in the garden. When tools are the right size for their bodies, kids can focus on the task at hand rather than struggling to use an unwieldy tool. Finally, using tools that are appropriately sized for their small hands can help build children’s confidence and independence. They are able to take ownership of their gardening tasks and feel empowered to contribute to the family garden.
Some of Our Favorite Gardening Tools for Toddlers
- 4 Piece Gardening Tool Set– The Play22 Kids Garden Tool Set is a perfect way to get your little ones interested in gardening. The set comes with four durable and safe gardening tools, including a rake, shovel, hoe, and leaf rake, all of which are designed specifically for kids. The bright colors and fun designs will make gardening more exciting for children, and the tools are the perfect size for little hands. With these tools, your child can easily help with planting and caring for the garden.
- Children Size Hand Tools– This 4-Piece hand tool set is a great starter set for young children who want to help out in the garden. The set includes a trowel, rake, shovel, spoon, and fork, all designed to fit comfortably in small hands. The tools are made of durable, high-quality materials.
- Gardening Gloves– These kids’ gardening gloves are designed to keep little hands safe while helping in the garden. The gloves are made from high-quality materials that are durable and long-lasting, making them perfect for use in all kinds of outdoor activities. They come in bright colors and fun patterns that are sure to appeal to children, and the gloves are designed to fit small hands comfortably. The gloves offer protection against thorns, dirt, and other hazards that may be encountered in the garden, making them a must-have accessory for any young gardener.
Fun and Easy Toddler Garden Crafts
Creating a fairy garden: Toddlers can help create a miniature fairy garden, using small plants, rocks, and other decorations to make a magical space. I think we have to make my son a dinosaur garden like this one from Gluesticks Blog.
Building a birdhouse or bird feeder: Toddlers can help build a birdhouse or bird feeder to learn about the importance of providing food and shelter for birds in the garden. You can check out this fun popsicle stick birdfeeder from Mombrite.
Making plant markers: Toddlers can make their own plant markers using craft sticks or rocks, decorating them with paint or markers, and labeling them with the name of the plant. Check out my post about DIY Garden Markers to make.
Planting the seeds of a love for gardening with your toddlers
Gardening is a wonderful activity for toddlers. It provides a wide range of developmental benefits that support growth and learning in many different areas. From cognitive development to physical activity to emotional regulation, gardening engages all of the senses. And it provides opportunities for exploration, creativity, and social interaction. Whether planting a small herb garden, tending to a few potted plants, or working on a larger outdoor plot, gardening with toddlers is a fun and rewarding experience that can help support healthy development and lifelong learning.