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.

Kid Helping With Vegetable Garden

Child Planting Tomatoes

Children enjoy helping out in the garden. This six-year-old girl is preparing to plant tomatoes in her vegetable garden.

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

Child's Play: Dream Homes for Tykes

Take your play outside with a fabulous playhouse.

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

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

The 12 Best Kits + Tools to Get Kids Hooked on Gardening

Foster an interest in both indoor and outdoor gardening with these educational hands-on kits and kid-sized tools.

Landscaping With Children in Mind

A playhouse surrounded by a butterfly and bird garden.

Create an Outdoor Gardening Studio for Kids

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

Keeping Cats Safe in the Garden

Cats are curious by nature and the more you can think like them, the safer they will be in your garden.

How to Get Kids to Enjoy Gardening

Share your love of gardening with the little ones with tips on helping them get outside and get growing.

DIY Horseshoe Court

Get the family outside to play a game of horsehoes in your very own court!

How to Make a Weatherproof Cardboard Box Fort

Use a weatherproofing spray to make your kids' cardboard box fort stand up to the elements.

Are Ladybugs Good for the Garden?

Ladybugs, also known as lady beetles or ladybird beetles, are considered beneficial insects in the garden because they are predators for many known garden insect pests. Learn more about ladybugs and how to attract them to your garden.

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