Gardening with kids is a fun and hugely rewarding experience for parents and children alike.
At Choklits Child Care, we love taking advantage of the beautiful Australian weather and spending time outside. Our expansive outdoor play space also includes a garden, where we enjoy getting the children involved in growing the veggies and herbs that will become part of their meals at our centre. We all know the benefits of locally and sustainably sourced ingredients, and what better way to shorten the supply chain by growing things right here onsite?
Here’s a video from the beginning of last summer, showing our wonderful toddler class preparing and planting our veggie patch for the new season.
So, why garden with kids?
Gardening is a fantastic sensory experience for children; they get to dig holes in the dirt, stroke the soft leaves and experience different textures from various plants, listen to the soothing noise of running water and enjoy the outdoors. Research shows that spending time outside is incredibly beneficial for children, as it engages the senses, supports creativity and aids problem-solving skill development. If you’re interested in a more in-depth discussion about the benefits of children engaging with nature and learning outdoors, take a look at our blog on the topic here.
Gardening also helps to develop children’s fine motor and gross motor skills, through digging holes, tipping a watering can or controlling a hose, planting seeds and picking veggies. It’s especially great for encouraging them to cross the midline, improving dexterity, using both hands and moving their hands independently to complete a task.
Tending to plants and watching them grow instils a sense of responsibility and achievement in children, particularly when they get to see the results of their hard work. The tasks and outcomes involved in gardening are brilliant for developing self-efficacy as a direct, tangible effect of their actions can be observed. Additionally, the patience required when waiting for a plant to grow, and then getting to enjoy the result, is very gratifying.
Growing your own food in a veggie patch is an amazing way to help children engage with the food preparation and cooking process. It can be really helpful for fearful or fussy eaters who are reluctant to try new things, as they are more likely to be excited about trying something they have grown themselves. We’ve seen this firsthand at Choklits; the children love it when Chef Helen includes our own produce in their meals!
Tips for Gardening with Kids
We often think of gardening as being an outdoor activity that requires lots of space, and large garden beds or veggie patches like the ones we have at Choklits certainly do, but gardening is totally achievable in small spaces as well. Most plants can live happily on a sunny windowsill or balcony if you don’t have a garden, and growing plants in little pots is perfect for children who like to pick things up to view them from every angle.
To keep it budget friendly and add an extra element of educational fun into the mix, give making your own pots out of newspaper a try! Its so easy a toddler can do it with just a little help, and this video from Gardening Australia is a great, slowly stepped through tutorial. All you need is newspaper, a cup to help you shape your pot and something to hold it together (staples, sticky tape or string will all work). We’d love to hear about it if you give it a try!
These newspaper pots are also biodegradable, so can be planted directly into a larger pot or garden bed when your seedling is ready. This makes them perfect for children to watch the seed sprouting process up close, and then be able to easily plant them afterwards.
Another fun thing to try in place of seeds is germinating produce you already have at home. The best thing about this is you can just use water if you’d rather not have the mess of soil inside. Good candidates for this include:
- Carrot tops – don’t throw away the end of your carrot when making dinner, save it to grow! Simply place them in a saucer of water and watch the magic happen.
- Avocado seeds – to germinate an avocado seed, you’ll need toothpicks and glass or jar of water. Use the toothpicks to suspend the seed in the water, broad side down, so that about an inch of the seed is covered. Just top up the water as needed, and you’ll see roots in two to five weeks.
- Lentils or chia seeds – lentils and chia seeds are perfect for growing cute little colonies of sprouts with no fuss involved. Simply take a damp paper towel and place them on top, remembering to spray them regularly so they don’t dry out. We love how quickly these ones sprout, making them a rewarding choice for kids, and the sprouts can be added to your sandwiches or salads for some yummy crunch.
- Sweet potatoes – have a sweet potato in the back of the cupboard you forgot about? It will make the perfect plant to grow inside. Simply take your sweet potato and place it in a glass of water, so that about two inches of the potato are covered, pop it in a sunny spot, then watch it sprout. Make sure to top up the water whenever it gets low, and then you can transfer the sprouts to soil in spring to grow your very own sweet potatoes!
If you are gardening with small pots or inside, an excellent alternative to a watering can is a spray bottle. They’re smaller and lighter than most watering cans, making them easier for little hands to control, and eliminate the possibility of big spills or accidents to clean up. Additionally, they allow children to develop grip strength and prevent flooding a small pot with water.
Our last tip to get kids involved in gardening is to make it arty. Letting them paint or colour in their own pots is lots of fun and turns your garden into a beautiful art gallery as well! Paper cups are great for this, like our kindergarteners decorated in the video below with Dee, the Projects & Group Operations Manager at Choklits.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this blog about gardening with kids! If you give any of these things a try, or have a story to share about your own gardening experiences, we’d love to hear about it next time your child is at Choklits.