6 Ideas (and Products!) to Get Your Kids to Love Gardening as Much as You Do

published Apr 21, 2021
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collage of Aeorgarden and sprouting kit

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We’ve all seen them: those idyllic scenes of children helping with the family garden on social media. Perhaps they are barefoot or wearing an adorably muddy pair of boots. There’s a close up of tiny hands holding colorful fresh laid eggs. A perfectly pastoral scene. 

You may find yourself wishing that you too could instill such values into your own kids. After all, knowing how to grow your own food and gaining an appreciation for the cycles of nature seem like values we should encourage. 

Credit: Cathy Gilbert

But maybe you live in an apartment and don’t have a yard. Or, you’re strapped for cash and can’t afford any fancy raised beds, container gardens, or other garden tools. Or, perhaps you know your thumb is far from green. 

Luckily, teaching young children about growing plants and gardening doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. It doesn’t have to require a plot of land or any expertise and it doesn’t have to resemble anybody’s idyllic homesteading Instagram accounts in order to still give your kids the gift of gardening. 

From finding “seeds” in your own pantry to shelling out the dough for an indoor hydroponic system, your journey of gardening with your children can be as simple and affordable or as complicated and costly as you’re comfortable with. 

Here are some of my favorite ideas, as a gardener and a busy mom of twins:

Credit: Cathy Gilbert

1. Look in your pantry.

After a kitchen play session with some dry beans, my kids must have swiped a few, because later I found beans sprouting alongside our houseplants in pots all over the house!

So you don’t need to buy fancy containers or packets of seeds to get started. You can head to your own pantry, as lots of kinds of basic dry beans can be coaxed into sprouting: black beans, black-eyed peas, or kidney beans could all be contenders. A plastic solo cup or leftover yogurt container can work — I’ve even saved broken tea cups for the cause. 

For a literary bonus, you could read Jack and the Beanstalk while you plant your beans.

Credit: Cathy Gilbert

2. Try growing garbage!

If you don’t have a pantry full of dried beans, you may still have another simple option: re-growing scraps of vegetables you’d otherwise throw away. Good choices for this project are celery and green onions. Just take the remaining root end of the vegetable after you used the top and plunk into a cup. Don’t let the water cover the plant completely, change the water out every couple of days, and you can grow vegetables from scraps! For extra fun, tell your kids they are zombie vegetables; after all, you did bring them back from the dead.  

3. Combine art and gardening. 

For kids who love to paint, there are plenty of great kits that let kids paint some pottery AND grow their very own seeds. These are unique gifts too!

4. Set up a small indoor operation.

There are lots of ways to have a small indoor garden that can grow food quickly. 

Microgreens are fast and easy to grow. All it requires is a tray, some dirt, seeds, and a sunny window. Even easier, is buying a ready made kit.

Don’t want to deal with dirt? Try growing sprouts in a sprouting jar.

Worried your kids will spill seeds everywhere? Some mushroom growing kits only require you to open the box, and spray the contents with water.

5. Go the tech route.

Credit: Cathy Gilbert

If you are living in a space without sunny windows or a yard, I can’t recommend AeroGardens enough.  

The nice thing about an AeroGarden system is that once you have the product, you can use it again and again — all you need to do is order new seed pods. Even better? Most of the models are fully automated, reminding you to add water or nutrients when the plants need it. 

Credit: Cathy Gilbert

6. Set up container gardens or raised beds outdoors.

Ready for a larger outdoor garden? Container gardens with potted plants work well for tomatoes, peppers, greens, and herbs, but you can also build raised beds or till up a spot in your yard. We’ve added new raised beds to our yard each year and as the kids have gotten older, they like to help build and plant. But if building a raised bed isn’t in your wheelhouse (or your kids are too young to help), you might consider investing in several of these pop-up fabric raised beds. They are lightweight and a cinch to set up; even your kids can handle it.

Credit: Cathy Gilbert

Kids don’t need the fanciest tools to start gardening. Mine have helped dig holes for seeds with everything from old kitchen spatulas to sticks they found in the yard. But there are many different ways — big and small, low-tech and high-tech — to get kids involved in gardening. And bonus: once they have a hand in growing the foods that end up on their plates, they may be a lot more willing to eat their veggies!