Plant a Child-Friendly Garden

Even 2- and 3-year-olds can help plant their own little patch, and watch as life unfolds around them.

Simple Shelter Perfect for Children to Play

Simple Shelter Perfect for Children to Play

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

A simple shelter in a backyard design built just for kids is a place they will love to play. Raised platforms or treehouses make exciting lookout points. Kids like a place that is just for them.

Tools and Materials

  • child-sized trowel
  • child-sized cultivator
  • child-sized rake
  • child-sized hoe

Step 1: Stake a Claim

Section off a corner of the garden or yard where a child can do as he or she pleases. It doesn't have to be designed or even particularly attractive, just a place where to explore without risk of damaging your prized plants.

Step 2: Let the Children Choose What to Grow

Let the children choose what they'd like to grow. Most often, these will be plants they recognize, such as pumpkins and potatoes. Plants with large seeds, such as beans, sunflowers, and nasturtiums, are easiest for small hands to sow. Though radish seeds are small, children delight in the almost instant growth and harvest. Or plant with a theme, perhaps a "pizza" garden containing tomatoes and peppers as well as herbs such as basil and oregano.

Step 3: Children Love Hiding Places

Consider constructing a tepee from tall poles and twine, to be covered with climbing beans and flowers. (Be sure to leave an opening for a door.) Or create a special room: a circle of tall sunflowers with shorter sunflowers or other flowers between them.

Step 4: Consider Herbs

Many culinary herbs are attractive and have interesting scents. Chives, sage, mint, and basil are good choices for a child's garden. Edible flowers, such as nasturtiums, pansies, violets, and calendulas, are also good.

Step 5: Beware of Toxic Plants

Since many other plants -- even something as familiar as rhubarb leaves -- are toxic, teach your child to consult with you before anything into his or her mouth. Only a few are so toxic they should not be used around children and pets. Two extremely toxic plants are castor bean (Ricinus communis) and precatory bean or rosary pea (Abrus). Many other plants are toxic in larger quantities and should be avoided in a child's garden. These include angel's trumpet (Brugmansia), delphinium, foxglove (Digitalis), euonymus, morning glory (Ipomoea), St. Johnswort (Hypericum), lantana, cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima), love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena), and valerian (V. officinalis).

Next Up

Family Planting: The Giant Garden

Large plants that dwarf little people can be a wonderful addition to a children’s garden.

Family Planting: Pond in a Pot

Those with a small yard can enjoy the aesthetic and wildlife benefits that a pond can bring.

Family Planting: Tropical Garden

A tropical border is one of the most exciting plantings, filled with bold, colorful plants and reminiscent of a child’s fantasy jungle.

Family Gardening: Create a Miniature Garden

Using small plants to make a miniature garden fires the imagination and reduces the garden to a child’s scale. Plastic farm or jungle animals, fairies, or dinosaurs bring the scene to life. 

How to Design a Family Garden

Need a garden that leaves room for kids and adults? Check out this guide for design tips suited to the whole family.

Create an Outdoor Gardening Studio for Kids

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

Family Gardening: Growing Sunflowers

Sunflowers are colorful giants and are one of the first flowers many children will recognize. A sunflower-growing competition appeals to any age of gardener. 

DIY Craft Project: Make a Just-for-Kids Plant Stand

Get your kids in the garden with this easy and fun family project. 

Child's Play: Dream Homes for Tykes

Take your play outside with a fabulous playhouse.

Family Planting: Butterfly Garden

If you have a sunny, sheltered border, you have the makings of a butterfly garden. Here's what you need to get started.