Gardening with toddlers is a wonderfully rewarding activity for you to enjoy together. Your fast-learning little one will love exploring the outside world, working out how food and flowers grow. Young children are keen on 'helping' in the garden, so harness this enthusiasm and encourage their interest in nature. It’s fun and super easy, we promise!
finding the right spot, both inside and out
If you have the outdoor space to get gardening with toddlers, choose a nice and sunny spot where plants will thrive. Greenhouses are great for growing food but can quickly become too warm for toddlers so might be better suited to a winter project.
You don’t need a garden to get green-fingered with your children though. If you have a driveway or patio with no beds, your little helper can have their own set of pots. A sunny windowsill is an excellent way to get growing. You could even save your jam jars and use those to get your little gardener started!
what you’ll need for gardening with toddlers
You don’t need much when it comes to gardening with toddlers. After all, they’re not training to be Alan Titchmarsh! A small trowel is ideal for little hands or you can pick up a set of their very own plastic tools and watering can for a reasonable cost.
Plant-wise, you’ll need seeds or seedlings, plus pots and compost if you’re container gardening. Then stock up on the usual outdoor bits and bobs: sunblock, sunhat and wellies for wet days. A camera is handy to take pics of your sprouting plants’ progress (and of your little green-fingered gardener getting mucky!)
good starter plants
Think about all your child’s senses while choosing plants. Lavender smells gorgeous and is easy to pick when it's ready. Bright bedding plants are straightforward to plant and great for teaching colours while gardening with toddlers. Or how about ornamental grasses which have a lovely, swishy feel between little fingers. Washed herb cuttings fresh from the garden could also be a great way to introduce your toddler to new flavours.
Sweet peas are colourful, with a lovely fragrance. The more you pick them the more they grow, so your budding gardener can have a happy time cutting blooms and putting them in jam jars around the house from late spring through to summer. Just make sure those green fingers don’t put any in their mouths as sweet peas are mildly poisonous when ingested in large quantities. Same goes for your furry friends who might like to graze!
keeping them engaged
The idea of waiting for plants to grow – or, indeed, waiting for anything – is quite alien to toddlers. But some plants yield a pretty quick result; remember growing cress in school? Sunflowers are another favourite for gardening with toddlers and can add a healthy dose of competition when regularly measured. Marigolds and nasturtiums grow quickly from seed, so try combining these with slower growing varieties to keep your little gardener interested.
Keep young gardeners engaged with other outdoor activities: set up a compost bin or hang up a bird feeder in the window (especially handy if you don’t have an outdoor space). They can decorate their pot or plot to keep it pretty while you’re waiting for plants to appear: try windmills, shells, pebbles or even garden gnomes!
growing their own food
Gardening with toddlers is a great opportunity to teach them about the food cycle. Strawberries are a fantastic starter crop as most children love their yummy sweetness! And lettuce tends to grow reliably with lots of interesting colours and textures to try.
For something that’s really easy-peasy, the clue is in the name. Peas and beans are perfect for first-time gardeners as the large seeds are easy for little hands to hold. They can also have fun making the cane wigwam and watch how the vines coil around their creation. Carrots are another popular choice as they can be grown in pots provided the soil’s deep enough. Imagine your young garden buddy’s pride when the family tucks into the food they’ve grown!
keeping your little gardener safe
Once you’ve bought all your tools and seeds, here are a few things to remember about gardening with toddlers to keep them safe as they (and their plants) grow:
• Make sure to clear up any animal mess left in your garden as it can be a dangerous source of pathogens • Don’t feed your precious veggies with water collected from your rooftop as it can contain harmful bacteria • If you’re lucky enough to have a pond, put a secure fence around it so little ones don’t go for a paddle • And lastly, take a trip to the sink after gardening with toddlers to clean every green little finger
With a little luck and some TLC, hopefully your little gardener will be growing their own flowers and veggies in no time! Whether you have fun in the garden or make the most of every sunny windowsill, we hope your efforts in gardening with toddlers are fun, fruitful and full of flavour!