Create an Outdoor Gardening Studio for Kids

Keep kids happily occupied during the hectic gardening season by creating a kid-friendly outdoor gardening studio.
Nursery Flower Transplants

Nursery Flower Transplants

Get kids involved in gardening season with a kid-friendly outdoor gardening studio.

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Gardeners invest much time and sweat equity tending to the garden. So how are you supposed to garden and entertain the kids at the same time without the assistance of electronic devices? A covered porch or patio is a great place to keep the kids busy on simple arts-and-crafts and gardening projects while you're busy in the yard. Gardener Marianne Binetti offers simple ideas for creating the perfect kid-friendly outdoor space.

Kid-Friendly Storage

Use waterproof containers, like old suitcases or plastic bins, to store toys or materials for arts and crafts. This chair, shown at right, does double-duty as a storage box. Stay in the garden theme by using lightweight plastic flower pots for storing toys. The pots can also be turned over and used as stools for the kids to sit on when they're working at the table. Use a clean, empty window box to store rolls of paper for easy access for art projects.

Nature-Inspired Decor

Hanging baskets and window boxes are great for adding color to the porch. Have the children pick out the plants and place them, pot and all, inside the hanging basket or window box. Since they're not actually planted in there, it's also a great spot for storage.

Equip this garden-inspired art studio with other necessities, including tables, chairs and even kid-sized gardening tools. Kids love to have their artwork displayed. If you've run out of room on the refrigerator, why not keep it outdoors (under cover, of course) by using magnets on a metal surface.

Easy-to-Grow Plants

Consider what types of flowers you plant around the yard. Add some visual appeal with the twisted stems of a contorted filbert (Corylus avellana 'Contorta') or fragrant Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) whose flowers resemble bunny ears. Plants with unique shapes, textures, scents or colors add storybook charm to the world around your kids and provide inspiration as they get creative.

Plants Kids Love to Touch

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These lollipop-like blooms instantly draw children's attention. 'Globemaster' (pictured) can reach 5 feet, making any garden resemble a real-life Candyland. Just warn the kids that these onion family members don't taste as sweet as they look!

Photo By: Image courtesy of Dig. Drop. Done


Kids love to "pet" the fuzzy, red, catkin-like blooms of the chenille plant, in both its trailing and shrubby forms. Whether you choose to grow chenille indoors as a houseplant or outdoors in-ground, this lovable plant will attract the interest of your garden visitors.

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)

The fragrant, unusual blooms of this Southern wildflower open up on a rapidly-growing vine in midsummer, attracting butterflies, bees and curious children, of course. Fruits, called maypops, follow the flowers and can be eaten fresh or used to make jelly. 

Photo By: Image courtesy of Johnny's Selected Seeds


Sunflowers are easy to grow and children will love plucking petals from the towering blooms. Sunflower seeds are an added bonus. Try growing 'Sunforest Mix', which can reach heights of 10 to 15 feet, for a living playhouse.

Lotus Flower

Lotus flowers are beautiful and large, about 6 to 8 inches across. After the blooms are spent, the seed heads dry, forming pockmarked holes in which the seeds rest. When shaken, the seed heads sound like maracas. The leaf is waxy to the touch and has hydrophobic properties; when water drops hit the leaf, they roll around like beads of mercury. Kids love to play with this plant.


Sure, the dandelion has a bad rep, but we can't imagine a childhood without making wishes on dandelions' fuzzy seed heads.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

'Bees Jubilee' Clematis

'Bees Jubilee' clematis features pink petals with dark pink striking the center of each petal. Brown anthers with yellow bases add an incredible contrast to this perennial. Kids love to touch the soft petals. 

Sedum 'Autumn Fire'

Don't be surprised if you see your kids plucking the succulent foliage or brushing the blooms of this easy-to-grow, low-maintenance sedum. ‘Autumn Fire’ which appears in late summer and thrives in arid climates. The blooms of rosy pink flowers age to a salmon bronze and finish with a deep coppery red.

Photo By: Image courtesy of North Creek Nurseries


The giant globe-like blooms of Scadoxus make you stop in your tracks. Each flower is a red spectacle of fireworks attached to a stem.


Deep color and a burst of miniature blooms make spring-blooming hyacinth a hit in a children's garden.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Felicia Feaster

Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis fruticosa)

The fuzzy stems and leaves of Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fruticosa) complement its creamy-yellow flowers. In warmer climates, the foliage can be enjoyed year-round. 

Mexican Feather Grass (Stipa tenuissima)

Of the many ornamental grasses that are fun to touch, there's one that truly stands out: The threadlike blades of Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) feel like hair. You simply can't help running your fingers through this grass.


With its thickness and pubescence, this large-leafed perennial feels like the fuzzy ear of a puppy. Several varieties of verbascum offer pastel-colored flowers that contrast nicely with the silvery leaves, making it a showier alternative to the popular lamb's ear. 

'New Day Rose Stripe' Gazania

Bold color makes this gazania an attention-grabber.


Kids love anything with bright colors, plus the sturdy snapdragon blooms are fun for children to pinch to make the "mouth" open and close.

Native to Australia, kangaroo paws (Anigozanthos) doesn't just have a cool name for its uniquely shaped, fuzzy flowers, but it also provides a good opportunity for a geography lesson. Explain to kids that plants grow all over the world, and have them observe the differences and similarities between plants native to the United States and those from other continents. You can also share history lessons about plants, such as how the plants got from Europe, Africa or Asia to their own garden, which plants were grown in their grandparents' gardens and more. The more you learn about plants, the more you can pass on to your kids.

Cultivate plants with fragrance in your garden. Kids have keen senses of smell, so they appreciate fragrance even more than we do. Roses, lilacs, sweet alyssum, iris and herbs, such as rosemary and thyme, have sweet and earthy scents that kids love. Fragrance encourages children to interact with plants by getting up close and touching them.

"Don't forget to teach your kids some of the simple joys of childhood," Binetti says.

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