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Whether you have a green thumb or not (and I’m guessing not since you are reading this post;) gardening with kids is such a rewarding activity! Besides the obvious benefits of being outside rather than glued to a screen, gardening can teach both parents and kids so much. It can be overwhelming to start if you have never grown anything on your own, but this list will get you started off small and simple! I have personally tested out each of these plants, (and my plants tend to survive despite me rather than because of me,) so I know anyone can grow them! If you have decided you want to get your hands dirty, read on for the 10 Plants Anyone Can Grow With Kids…
Why Garden With Kids?
Given the opportunity to explore, kids have an innate connection with the natural world. There is a slowness to nature that is right in line with what kids need to let their senses take over. As adults we don’t necessarily take time to note the small things, like ants carrying leaves or the way the grass rustles as it blows in the wind. We have seen these things a million times and they have become the background noise to our endless to-do lists and important jobs. Our Kids are experiencing all of this for the first time though! When we allow them to experience the slowness of nature, even the busiest toddlers have the ability to focus down onto tiny details. Why is this important? These tiny details give them clues as to how the world works, things they will later learn in school but are developing a deeper connection to at this young age.
Getting Started Gardening With Kids:
Whether you have a tiny urban patio or large backyard, growing plants with kids is a must do activity! Our list below takes into consideration space, light, etc. so even if you can only fit one pot onto your patio you can still reap all the benefits of growing plants with your kids. Purchasing lots of equipment isn’t necessary either, although kids do love tools that are their size (TIP: These are are often available in the dollar section of your local Target!) All you need is a plant or seeds, pot, dirt and something to water with. Check out garage sales for old pots, and you can reuse a plastic jug to water with (Tutorial Here) which is perfect for little fingers. So here are my picks for the 10 Best Plants to Grow With Kids!
Number 1: Lavender
Lavender is a fave for me because it is so hard to kill! It is drought tolerant once established, and can tolerate poor soil quality. Another reason to love lavender is that it attracts a lot of wildlife! Bees and hummingbirds love its blossoms and this is a great source of learning for littles. My daughter loves the fact that bees collect pollen in their ‘elbows’ and ‘dance’ to show other bees where the good stuff is;) This stuff also smells fantastic, you can extend the activity by taking cuttings and making calm down/soothing pillows like in this tutorial from RedTedArt.com. I’ve never grown lavender from a seed, but they are fairly inexpensive to get a smaller plant . Younger kids will love helping you pick out a plant/pot from the nursery and being a part of the whole process! The plants can grow large, but a medium sized pot would work as well.
Tips For Growing:
Lavender likes dry soils and climates, so adding some sand to clay soils and allowing the plant to dry out in between waterings is key! They like lots of sun, at least 6 hours a day. Ask at your local nursery for the type of lavender best for your climate!
Number 2: Beans & Peas
Beans are great for toddlers because they have large seeds, easier for little hands to maneuver. They are also quick sprouting, about 8 days in warm weather. If you’ve never seen a bean or other vine plant grow you are in for a treat! As they grow they produce tiny tendrils that curve and curl looking for something to grab onto! You can use sticks, lattice or an upside down tomato cage to give them support as they grow. Kids will be fascinated by the way the plants grab and climb. When they blossom, and then grow, you also have the reward of an edible treat (beans are sweet so usually an easy sell as far as picky toddlers are concerned;) My daughter of course won’t eat them but does love to dissect them and look at them under the magnifying glass!
Tips For Growing:
We grow both bush beans and peas. Beans like rich and well drained soil. They do well in warm climates, or at least when planted well after the weather has warmed up for the season. The beans are sweetest just after they’ve ripened, the shells get tough as they get bigger/older. Peas like it cooler, they can be a great first crop when the weather starts to get nice!
Number 3: Sunflowers
Love these for several reasons! Of course they are big, beautiful flowers, but for kids to see the flower grow so fast and tall is a special treat. There are so many varieties, we like to mix them together, just making sure the extra tall varieties are in back so as not to block the light. Like beans they have large seeds, easy for toddler hands to maneuver, and also sprout and grow fairly quickly. While they do need regular water, they are pretty hardy and resistant to bugs. There are so many stories and activities that incorporate sunflowers as well. Picking seeds out of an old sunflower head with tweezers is great fine motor practice!
Tips For Growing:
Plant them in batches, spread out over several weeks and you will have beautiful sunflowers well into fall!
Number 4: Mint
Mint basically grows itself:) Just make sure you plant it in a contained spot (or pot) because it really will take over! We have a small area by our back steps surrounded by concrete and ours does really well there. Bonus it is a natural deterrent for some spiders and ants! I let my daughter cut pieces for her ‘Lemonade Stand’ and Mud Kitchen as well, it smells so good and it is truly a hard to kill plant. We later added some to our potted herb garden specifically for the mud kitchen as well.
Number 5: Thyme and Rosemary
Also easy to grow, hardy plants, these have the added benefit of providing you some fresh ingredients for cooking with your little ones! Many kids will be more willing to try new flavors when they grow and pick the ingredients themselves. Send them out in the morning to clip some Thyme for their scrambled eggs and see what they think! We planted our herbs together in some stacked terracotta pots, like in this tutorial here.
Number 6: Cucumbers
These are easy to grow and most are really prolific, so kids get to pick them on a regular basis. These are also ones to pick early once they look ripe, the longer they ripen the tougher and more bitter the skin gets. Once your little is old enough, they are also great for them to help prepare in the kitchen, they can peel and or chop them! Our favorite kitchen tools are below.
Tips for growing:
Cucumbers don’t like water on their leaves, so help your child water them at the base!
Number 7: Strawberries
I initially stayed away from growing strawberries with my little because they are susceptible to bugs and slugs and I didn’t want to have to worry about using pesticides. This year though I have realized you don’t have to have a huge strawberry patch to make it a great toddler activity! We love going to our local strawberry patches to pick, but it is just as fun to have a plant or two in a pot and learn to wait for the sweet reward as they ripen one or two at a time. It’s a great little learning activity to check in on your ‘berry every day to see how it ripens. Did you know strawberries are sweeter the warmer the weather is? Our little plant in a pot hasn’t had the problems with bugs that those in beds do, or you can try this Fence Board strawberry tower! Our friends made one and it is really low maintenance and keeps the berries from most bugs.
Number 8: Cherry Tomatoes
I know I know choking hazard! Kids love everything ‘kid’ sized though, so they will love harvesting these tiny fruit (vegetable?:) There are so many different varieties, I recommend checking out your local small nursery for some fun ones. We’ve grown purple ones and striped ones before! All you need is a cage for support.
Tomatoes like deep, infrequent waterings, letting them dry out in between (perfect for the absentminded parent!)
Number 9: Succulents
Also, you know you want to put googly eyes on them and give them names:)
Number 10: Sweet Potatoes