So you want to know how to make gardening fun for kids, huh? The real question is, how is gardening not fun for kids? Sure, most teenagers won’t be interested unless they get a good TikTok video out of it, but the little ones love it. And what’s not to love? Dirt, food, and knives!
Yes, knives. My daughter is two, and she’s a bit of a wildling, so she always wants to be active, and if I’m cooking, she wants to do it too. I learned early on that if I was ever going to get my vegetables chopped for dinner, I would need to let her help. I’ll be honest, she didn’t start with anything other than curved butter knives, and that worked perfectly fine. In fact, when I upgraded her to plastic toddler knives, they were sharper than the butter knives!
But anyway, let’s have some fun here. Because if you’re not having fun, it’ll be hard for your kids to get on board. Training them to be your helpers will be worth all the effort in the long run! Here are a few ways to let young kids help in the garden that won’t drive you totally nuts.
Let them dig, weed, and play in the dirt.
If you want to know how to make gardening fun for kids, start with the dirt. Let them dig the holes you’re planting your seedlings in. Do yourself a favor, and let them pull the weeds too if they want — the little weirdos love pulling weeds! You may just need to show them the difference between the weeds and your plants if they’re little.
Let them pick the vegetables.
Kids love picking vegetables. I try not to let my little bull in a china shop pull beans because they’re easily damaged by pulling, but things like tomatoes and (sweet) peppers are great introductory veggies for your helpers. It’s also a great way to teach them colors because when you have a tomato plant full of red and green tomatoes, you can teach them only to pick the red ones. And if you’re growing bell peppers, you could tell them they can only pick green ones, yellow, or orange ones. You’ll be surprised how even the little ones can be great listeners.
Let them wash the vegetables.
The little ones love washing vegetables. You can offer them a bowl of water and a strainer so that they can wash the veggies off, then put them in the strainer to dry. It gets even more fun for things like potatoes, where you can offer them a little brush to get the dirt off. I’m telling you, it won’t be hard to learn how to make gardening fun for kids!
Let them help clean up.
At the end of the season, gardening is no fun, and it’s all work, so recruit your kids to help pull up the annuals, rake the leaves, and turn the soil. I’ll be honest, depending on their age, they might not be so helpful at this part, but the littlest ones are great stick picker-uppers, and every bit helps!
Let them chop and peel.
Picky eaters, in particular, excel at this task because kids love to eat the food that they make. Suppose you have a load of veggies to chop. In that case, a toddler can handle a zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, and other soft vegetables pretty easily, along with soft fruits like strawberries. Older kids will be good at peeling and can chop bigger, harder veggies. Avoid hot peppers, onions, and anything you yourself take caution when chopping.
No matter their age, all kids should start with a dull, rounded butter knife or toddler knife and soft veggies before graduating up to anything hard or sharp for safety. Kids learn how to chop pretty easily, and they’ll probably learn how not to hurt themselves by actually doing it once or twice like we all do, so graduate slowly.
If your kids are old enough, they can also help with seasoning veggies, stirring, putting things in pans, and whatever you are comfortable with. When I’m trying to cook, I can usually occupy my toddler by asking her to chop a zucchini for 10-15 minutes, which is about as much time as I need to prepare the meal. And the bonus perk is that she’ll usually snack while she’s chopping because veggies are just so darn interesting when they’re not on a plate!
I’d love to know if you’ve figured out how to make gardening fun for kids, and the different methods you’ve used at home. Leave your tips and tricks in the comments below!