gardening for children: the six best plants for little nature-lovers

Little girl smelling a sunflower

Hobbies are great for keeping little ones busy, allowing them to express themselves and discover things they’re passionate about. From collecting rocks and playing an instrument to baking cookies and playing sports, there are so many different activities which they can take on.

Gardening is a natural fit for children: they're outside, they can get a bit grubby and they can spend a lot of time exploring. Who knows, they might even dig up a few pesky weeds in the process! Gardening together also helps to open up conversations about nature, the environment and where food comes from.

Although all plants are magical to watch growing and blooming, some are more suitable for children given they’re generally easier to care for. Here are six of the best fruits, flowers and vegetables to help with encouraging those green fingers:

succulent strawberries

Tasty strawberries are fun to eat and pretty to look at, with their plump red shape and little green hats. You can grow them from seed, but this might take too long for impatient planters. During the warmer months, garden centres will have plenty of young strawberry plants to choose from instead. Let little ones pick their favourite, then direct them to a sunny spot in your garden or on the windowsill.

Fresh carrots

crunchy carrots

Planting carrots is a great way to get your child excited about healthy eating. It's a fun game to guess how big they'll grow when they're still hiding beneath the soil. You could even buy a purple, white or yellow variety to give your little one an extra surprise.

If you have a sunny veggie patch, try sewing carrot seeds in spring for summer harvesting. Home-grown carrots are delicious – you might find that your young connoisseur prefers them to the shop-bought variety!

fragrant herbs

Herbs are happy in containers, so they're the perfect plants for cosy gardens. Simply pop them in a pot or on a sunny kitchen windowsill – they're pretty easy to grow from seed indoors.

With herbs, the fun is (obviously) in the smelling. Teach little ones to rub the leaves to unlock each scent. Your child will be proud to have contributed to the cooking too. Fresh basil and oregano make tasty additions to homemade pizzas or pasta sauces.

Gardening with children

lovely lavender

Yes, also a herb, but lavender gets a special mention. Summertime bee and butterfly spotting is a doddle with this in the garden. It's a simple one to grow outside too. Tell your little one to find a planting spot that's warm and quite dry, like against a wall. You and your helper can also prune the flowers in spring and autumn to use for fun craft sessions.

scented sweet peas

In early spring, you can grow these fragrant flowers from seed in outdoor pots. Help your child to push the seeds in, water them and cover the pot with a polythene bag. Take a peek together after a few days to see if the seeds have sprouted. Once they have, remove the bag and pop them somewhere sunny. Sweet peas bloom more when you pick the flowers; perfect for kids who can't help themselves!

Gardening with kids

soaring sunflowers

Time to get competitive. The annual sunflower growing contest is a much-loved tradition in many families. Your children can plant the seeds directly into the soil in late spring, with a cane ready. Make sure you label whose seed is whose! They should be ready for measuring by August.

Grow these lovely plants together and your children will soon be rewarded with a tasty snack or pretty bouquet. And if they're very young or you're worried about them losing interest, stick to that old favourite: cress. It gives an almost-instant result, so it's ideal for gardening with toddlers.


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