10 Unique Gardening Activities for Kids

March 13th, 2011 by Dionna | 34 Comments
Posted in Adults, Children, Compassionate Advocacy, Eclectic Learning, Ecological Responsibility and Love of Nature, Environmentalism, Healthy Living, Homey Goodness, Infants, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, My Family, natural parenting, Preschoolers, Strive for Balance, Teens, Toddlers

  • Email This Post
toddler and mom look at yellow daffodils

Stopping to smell the flowers.

Encouraging a Love of Dirt

Gardening for me is more than just a way to save money by growing vegetables. It is humbling. Miraculous. Exhausting. It is an exercise in delayed gratification. It physically connects me to the Earth. Gardening tests my patience while strengthening my spirit.

My husband shakes his head at me year after year, wondering why I am so anxious to break ground when I’ve never had (what some would call) a “successful” garden. He doesn’t get it: I like the challenge. And I love working the dirt.

I want Kieran to experience gardening. I want to introduce him to the beauty, surprise, and magic that can be found when you put a handful of seeds in the ground. He may never love to garden, but I want to expose him enough that he has the option.

With that in mind, I have compiled ten fun gardening activities appropriate for all ages of children, but particularly suitable for toddlers and preschoolers. Enjoy!

10 Unique Gardening Activities for Kids

1. Grow a Playhouse: Imagine being three years old and surrounded by gigantic sunflowers towering above you, or crawling into a teepee made of sticks and overgrown with pea pods, or engulfed in a square of moonflowers that open up when the crickets start to sing. Flowering playhouses are easily built (by a parent) out of wooden poles and string. Plant the seeds around the poles, then gently train the flowers to wind around and through them.

You can find detailed instructions for a sunflower or moonflower playhouse online. Alternatively, check out these instructions for building your own teepee plus ideas for what seeds to plant around it. Nature Moms Blog has more ideas for flowering playhouses. There are also two books dedicated to growing sunflower houses: Sunflower Houses – Inspiration from the Garden and Sunflower House.

2. Grow Something to Wear: Let your children play dress-up with their flowers. Turn colorful blossoms into necklaces, leis, or bracelets. Tuck flowers behind ears, into hair, or thread a blossom through a shirt button. Save pretty petals to make jewelry.

Our 2010 rainbow garden

3. Plant a Rainbow: Find flower seeds in the colors of the rainbow, then help your child plant them in a rainbow shape. Try to find flowers that are roughly the same size and make sure they are all appropriate for the same season.

4. Plant Something Weird: Appeal to your child’s love for the unexpected. Plant purple and red carrots, blue potatoes, or purple beans. Grow miniature or “midget” versions of the vegetables we usually see like peas, corn, or lettuce.

5. Create a Scratch & Sniff Garden: Please your child’s nose with an assortment of smells: plant mint that smells (and tastes!) like chocolate peppermint, ginger, lemon, orange, and apple, and geraniums that smell like roses, lemon, mint, chocolate, pine, nutmeg, and more.

6. Grow Plants that are Nice to Touch or Fun to Hear: Your toddler will love “tickle me” plants; the leaves curl up when touched. Lamb’s Ears have a fuzzy silvery fur that kids like to touch. If you garden indoors, aloe vera plants are a good tactile choice for small children. You can also try bunny tails and cotton to satisfy a child’s sense of touch.
On windy days, your toddler will love to listen to the sounds made by ornamental grass, the Chinese lantern plant, or the Money plant.1

7. Grow a Craft Project: Grow gourds that you can turn into birdhouses or musical instruments. Grow flowers and berries that you can use for their natural dyes, which your child can use for artwork and other crafts. There are even certain plants with beads that can be used in jewelry.

8. Garden in Unusual Containers: Who says you have to plant seeds in the ground? Give your child a fun container (also a great way to garden inside). You can use an old shoe, a discarded toy, or a plain pot with a face drawn on. Or trap a cucumber in a glass jar.

Our 2010 butterfly/hummingbird garden

9. Attract Butterflies and Hummingbirds: Create beauty on and above the ground by planting flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds.2

10. Eat Your Vegetables and Your Flowers: Ground cherries are hidden in pods that look like little lanterns. Grow a pizza patch garden full of tomatoes, peppers, basil, garlic, and other veggies and herbs that can be baked into homemade pizza. Apartment dwellers: did you know you can grow peanuts inside?
For a completely new level of edible fun, try growing flowers you can eat: nasturtium, clover, and lavender are just a few tasty varieties.

A Few Guidelines to Gardening with Children
Here are some simple tips to help keep gardening with kids fun and easy.

1. Give your child her own space and tools.

2. Let your child have some control over what he grows. Choose a few ideas/varieties that are doable, then let your child pick his favorite to try.

3. Relax! Let her do her own thing. Don’t worry if she spends more time playing with the dirt or worms than she does pulling weeds.

4. Consider planting a mixture of seeds, seedlings, and full-grown plants. It can be hard for little ones to wait for those first sprouts to pop out of the ground.3

Do you have any fun ideas for gardening with children?

What is your child’s favorite part of digging in the dirt?


This post has been modified from a previous version published at Strocel.com.

  1. Always research flowers/plants before growing them. Some – like the Chinese lantern plant – have parts that are poisonous if eaten.
    Check out this article for more plants that react to touch.
  2. Butterfly Gardens; Hummingbird Gardens
  3. More general tips for gardening with kids:
    *Gardening with Kids has a wealth of information and ideas, including The Basics and For the Youngest Beginner;
    *Ten Tips on Gardening with Kids; and
    *Toddler Garden

34 Responses to:
"10 Unique Gardening Activities for Kids"

  1. mamapoekie   mamapoekie

    methinks this is a great article for next week’s SS. Thank you

  2. This is an awesome list Dionna! We are anxiously waiting for spring here in the north woods. We have our tomatoes started but need to get our peppers, eggplants, and cold weather crops started pronto.

    We got a catalog from Four Seasons Nursery and they have an awesome variety of flowering plants and fruit plants for reasonable prices. We are getting bees this spring so I finally have a really good excuse to go crazy with flowering perennials.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Bees!! You are a brave lady :) I really, really, REALLY need to start thinking about my vegetable garden. (sigh)

  3. My mom made a teepee for me in our garden! I still have pictures of myself in it. I used to HATE gardening and pulling weeds, but once I passed my teenage years, all I wanted to do was garden. Sometimes when you “plant the seed” early on, it’ll “grow” later in life, even if it doesn’t look like it will. (Please excuse my really bad garden puns.)

    • Leanne

      Too true! I absolutely hated gardening as a teenager as well. I wanted nothing to do with it. My mother fed our entire family on the gardens she grew and canned/froze most of it herself for us.

      I never, as a kid, understood why she was so adamant about doing that “stupid” garden. As an adult though, I’m so glad she did. It gave my brother and I a chance to eat healthier and better tasting food, and the green thumb has also passed onto me now, thankfully!

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        You are so lucky! I wish I’d been around more gardening – I know my grandpa was a good gardener, but he died when I was 6. I need a gardening role model!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I’ll excuse you your puns ;) Now you must make your little one a teepee so you can display pictures side by side, you know that, right?!

  4. Alicia C.   amccrenshaw

    I am so excited that my little guy will finally be able to help me in the garden this year. Everything I’m planning on growing will be geared toward him – either easy to grow or something he loves to eat. Thank you for these great ideas!

    I’d like to add one more: Make seed bombs! It’s a great way to get kids excited about gardening before they can actually get out there and get digging: http://mccrenshaw.blogspot.com/2011/02/ready-for-spring-make-seed-bombs-with.html

  5. Sunshine Mama   ParentalPundit

    This is adorable! Great ideas. Some of them are things we’ve done with our son, and some are new ideas that I look forward to trying this year. One way our little boy has always loved being involved is by watering the flowers. We have a “wand” to attach to the end of the hose to make it a nice even spray so he isn’t too overzealous on the new plantings. ;-) Thanks for the ideas!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Oh yes, Kieran is in love with watering. One thing we also do is empty the water from his little wading pool onto the garden – he likes making trips with his little bucket back and forth :)

  6. Mary Ann Varkaris

    I love these ideas! However, I’d be awfully carefully with young children regarding eating flowers. They should be old enough to reliably understand that not all flowers should be tasted. I have monkshood (aconitum) in my garden and the lovely little slipper shaped flower could easily be deadly to a small child (the whole plant is toxic, but I have privacy fence and no small children). Nightshade, which comes up as a weed vine all over the place, is also somewhat toxic, though possibly not as fatal as monkshood.

  7. Jen

    Really cute ideas. I just started gardening last year and found that it was a great way to entertain both the kids and myself. I will definately incorporate some of these ideas into my garden this year. Thanks!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      It definitely helped me get outside more with Kieran last year – although after this winter, I’d better not need an excuse to get out of the house!

  8. teresa   momgrooves

    My child loves every part of digging in the dirt! We’ve had a veggie garden for the past few years (still trying to figure it out…). I believe it is the reason she loves to eat her veggies. Those first sugar snap peas cinched the deal.
    These ideas are amazing!!! We’re going to have tons of fun trying them out.
    I think I even want to try the blooming playhouse.
    (and I’m trying not to think “bugs” but only think “FUN”.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Snap peas are THE BEST off the vine!! Kieran does the same thing :) We had our first strawberries last year too – NONE of those made it into the house.

  9. Charise@I Thought I Knew Mama   ithoughtiknewma

    Such great ideas! I can’t wait to start doing things like this with Jac when he is a bit older.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Or now! Kieran was only 6 months old when I tried my first garden – he played in the grass and dirt with papa while I planted :)

  10. Kim

    thanks for sharing! This is a great post and perfect timing for us as we are doing our first garden with dd this year. she is so excited; she picked out most of the seeds herself! i’ve never done a garden from seeds, so we’ll see how it goes! love the ideas of sunflowers and kid sized tools. love it! :)

  11. What wonderful ideas! I have a commitment to doing better in the garden this year. I think my husband and oldest child have done more work than me, but maybe if I get the little ones involved too it will make it easier!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      We always have grand veggie gardening plans, and Tom and Kieran always help me get it started, then I’m left alone (which, hey, isn’t all that bad – ha!). But Kieran did really enjoy helping with the butterfly and rainbow gardens last year – he helped me weed, etc. pretty consistently!

  12. Terri Henry   onelovelivity

    Oh I LOVE this post! We garden on our veranda in pots and I always talk to my daughter about all the wonderful things we will do when we have a proper garden! Now I have a fantastic list of ideas I want that garden even more! For now we grow herbs and vegetables in the small space we have and have such joy doing so. I wish you every success with your glorious garden this year.

  13. Jennifer

    Love this article and all the great ideas! I think I might try to make a sunflower or peapod playhouse! Can’t wait to get our fingers in the dirt!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      If we ever do a sunflower playhouse, I think we’d almost have to include moonflowers – how cool would it be to have a playhouse that’s in bloom all the time?!

  14. LOVE the idea of a growing/flower playhouse! I really want to make more little spaces in our yard/garden for the girls to play in (and encourage them to explore the ones we do have). Lots of other great ideas here, too! Thanks!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      The only thing that worries me about a flower house are the bees . . . Kieran is very anti-bug/bee, and I’d hate for him not to enjoy it because of buzzing friends :(

  15. kreeeestamama

    Thanks for all these great ideas!! I really want to do a bit of gardening this year with my 3yo son. Never done it before…wish us luck! lol

  16. Tina   NJPreschool

    I love this post! I teach preschool from home and we can finally see the sun and feel its warmth. We were looking for a few good gardening ideas for this afternoon. You have given us several great projects for the next few weeks. Thank you so much!

  17. I’m always encouraging my kids to spend as much time in the garden as they want. I tell them it is the best way to learn more about our environment, the plants and insects around us. They seem pretty interested, probably because their grannie is always around, explaining what she is doing in the garden and showing them how to care for plants.

  • Grab my new badge!

    Visit Code Name: Mama

  • Visit Natural Parents Network
  • Display & participate!

    Visit Code Name: Mama

  • Carnival of Weaning

    Carnival of Weaning