It was an eye-opening experience for me, when at age 8, I caught a fish with a kid's rod and reel. How the fish missed seeing the super-thick white line or the goofy hook is beyond me, and of course he couldn't see the short and ultra-simple equipment in my hand. The fact is, though, that he fell for the worm, and from then on I came to believe that tools put in kids' hands could do the same thing as the serious grown-up ones in adults' hands.
Safety in kids' tools should be the first consideration, of course. After safety, though, comes effectiveness. The functionality of kids' gardening tools should approximate--even if on a very limited scale--the functionality of the adult-sized tool. In other words, those that work--and don't just look cute--go a long way toward sustaining a child's interest in gardening. Choose trowels, for example, that are angled enough to actually hold a fair quantity of soil. The Garden Gal Tool Tote includes a chunky trowel and garden fork that look like they could do some serious earth moving and cultivating. A watering can, purple plastic pots, gloves and a pair of sunglasses round out the little tool caddy. For ages 3 and up. Sells for $16.99 at kidsurplus.com.
The extra-deep wheelbarrow that Troy-Bilt has put its stamp on is enough to motivate any kid to help out in the garden. It comes with three hand tools, a watering can, gloves and a few seed packets for $49.99.
Let your child try out the tool in the store. Weight, heft, size and the general feel of tools is as individual for kids as for adults. I know one seven-year-old who would much rather endure the heavier weight of a man-sized rake (Ames' Copperhead) because of its extra-wide raking path. True Temper has a line of well-made, long-handled garden tools for kids that are streamlined, ultra-light versions of the real thing. The business ends of the tools are brightly colored steel (purple hoe, yellow garden rake, green leaf rake, etc.), the handles are wood.
The head of the purple hoe is small, but then the weeds in its path won't know the difference.