Tips for Engaging Kids with Gardening

Healthy Food Choices in Schools September 22, 2017 Print Friendly and PDF

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School and home gardening is a great way to get kids to try new fruits and vegetables and learning about sustainable practices to grow them. It’s a fantastic way to teach kids about science, as well as increase their physical activity as they pull weeds, plant seeds, water, and maintain the gardens. However, gardening can get routine, tiring, and even boring for some of us, especially for kids. Here is a set of tips on how to get even our most reluctant gardeners interested in growing fruits and vegetables.

Start Small 

If your kids are new to gardening, have them start off by growing a few seeds in a pot inside for them to tend to. Theresa Loe, Associate Producer of Growing a Greener World, recommends placing the pot in the kitchen table where your kid will see it multiple times a day, and will be able to observe all the small changes of the plant as it grows.  Once your kids see the incredible phenomenon of a seed grow into something edible, they will be more eager to put in the efforts of tending to a garden. 

Give them a job      

Shannon Shea, a gardener and mom of two younger kids, recommends giving kids a specific job in the garden. Pick one that won’t affect the garden too much if they make a few mistakes and that they can do without too much of your help. It could include pulling weeds, putting dirt into flower pots, or shredding newspaper for compost. These small tasks help them get their feet wet and gain necessary knowledge for gardening while they are still learning about it.

Give them ownership

Once your kid has some experience with gardening, give them a plot of their own in your larger garden to tend to. Loe recommends “leasing” a few square feet of the garden out to them, with some form of “payment” – such as some vegetables or flowers for you. Let them choose what to grow in it and maintain it throughout the growing season. They can choose what to do with the rest of their harvest – perhaps they would give it to a friend or family member, or donate it to a soup kitchen. This will let your kid take ownership of their gardening and learn every step of the gardening process as well as some life lessons along the way (1). 

Read Books About Gardening

Books can be a great way to introduce gardening concepts to young kids, and further interest for older children. Some book ideas from Shea include Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert, for younger kids, and Up in the Garden, Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner for older children. Check out PBS’s list of recommendations for Children’ Books About Gardening here (2). 


Contributors 

Maya George and Tisa Hill, Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University 

Sources

1. Loe, Theresa."Three Simple Ways to Engage Kids with Gardening." Burpee, n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.

2. Shea, Shannon "7 Clever Ideas To Get Your Kids Excited About Gardening" Happy Science Mom. N.p., 03 Apr. 2017. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.


 

 

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USDA / NIFA

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.