Simple Ways to Garden with the Kids


Written by Jenn, Contributing Writer

**note from Rachel: Please meet Jenn of A Simple Haven, a new monthly contributor here! Jenn is a mother, wife, baby wearer and has a desire to steward well the gifts God has given to her. 

Last year I gave myself permission not to plant my first garden due to a recent cross-country move, the birth of our second baby, and my husband starting grad school. However, the dust in my life has since settled and this spring I’m joining the ranks of the homesteaders of yesteryear. (Read: I’m dropping some plants in a mix of dirt-ish stuff that Mel Bartholomew says is awesome and hoping for the best).

So far I’ve mostly overcome my fear of killing everything and have successfully deterred rabbit raids. And while the crops I planted last week are growing at a painstakingly slow rate, I’m starting to enjoy the daily nurturing of our tomatoes, lettuce, kale, and assortment of herbs.

One unexpected hurdle, however, was the question of how to include my 1 ½ and 3 year-old children in my new horticultural endeavors.

  gadening with kids2

While perhaps a non-issue for some moms, my backyard situation poses particular challenges to simultaneously maintaining crops and the safety of wee ones:

  • Our yard is fenced.
  • There’s constantly construction traffic/tools/activity in the lot behind our house.
  • A giant drain sits in the corner of our yard, beckoning curious limbs.
  • I have a fast and fearless 16 month-old who has obeyed me maybe twice in his life.
  • I have a daughter with an overzealous and indiscriminate passion for weeding. (She proudly “weeded” my day-lilies yesterday).

With these factors and the desire to include my babes in the joy of cultivating life in place, I’ve developed some simple methods of addressing both.

Simple Ways to Garden with the Kids
(Without losing them or the kale)

1. Set Expectations 
As we go out, I’ll remind my 3 year-old of our backyard rule (stay in the backyard) and our garden rule (no walking on the plants). Simple, but I hear it’s helpful to keep it that way with littles. 🙂

2. Encouraging Participation
I’ll let big girl help water with her special watering can and pull weeds (with clear instruction). She loves to join in and even though it’s less efficient, I will happily trade efficiency for memories.

3. Immobilize the Baby
Strap that kid to something. I’ll either wear him in a sling or my Beco carrier or plop him in the stroller or baby swing. He’s an awfully good sport about the stroller, bless his heart.

At 16 months, he's still generally content in the stroller.  I think he's just saving his energy for when we let him loose.
See? Generally content. But I think he’s just saving his energy for when we let him loose.
4. Take Breaks to Play 
If I have multiple yard tasks to complete, we’ll often stop and swing, slide, or “chase” between front and back yard activities. If I’m tending flowers near the porch or patio, we’ll bring out the sidewalk chalk or one of the vehicles (i.e. an old Radio Flyer “bike,” etc.) in my daughter’s growing fleet. And if I’m feeling particularly brave, I’ll unstrap baby boy and let him explore.
5. Talk About the Miracle of it All 
What a great opportunity to talk about the miracle of creation, the intricacies of plants and how they grow, and that it all reflects the power and goodness of the God who made everything. I, for one, cannot keep my mouth shut when I see our first rose blooming, seeds beginning to sprout, or a robin making her nest. I always feel closer to the Lord when I’m outside exploring the world and I want to pass that sense of wonder on to my babes.
Now that is some beautiful basil.
Now that is some beautiful basil. Thankful for God’s gifts!
6. Make it a Fun Learning Time 
Though I was a teacher for 6 years, I don’t tend to do a lot of formal pre-schooling with my daughter. Rather, I try to look for opportunities to naturally incorporate learning the alphabet, colors, numbers, and other big concepts in whatever we’re doing. Which tends to look like us stopping at a stop sign to point out the letters and colors and count the sides of the octagon. Or drawing letters in the dirt and counting the weeds–er, day-lilies.

This isn’t a crystallized educational perspective, just what’s working for us right now. So, count those seeds, measure space between plants, and point out the squares in your square foot garden. It would be easier to just wait until nap-time to do the gardening (and, when initially planting, I did), but as much as possible, I want to include the wee ones in the homemaking—for their education and memories as much as mine.

How do you include the kids in your outdoor projects?

About Jenn

Jenn is the mommy of two children and two obese cats and wife to the Hubs. She loves finding beauty and grace in the midst of daily life, gets excited about natural remedies, and thinks her home isn't complete without guests. Moving 11 times in 8 years has prompted her to embrace and find joy wherever she lays her head.
Jenn blogs at A Simple Haven.


  1. I’ve found our children are much more prone to try veggies that we’ve grown! My biggest challenge is gardening with a toddler. Our fourth litle one is 18 months old, and every child we’ve had at this age gets enthused about “weeding” and digging. I just have to shrug my shoulders and try not to cry when another plant is pulled! 😉

    • Kristen, I agree–I have to remember that there will probably be some plant”casualties” 🙂 when the littles are helping! But, I feel like it’s worth it to have them involved. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when another day lily is pulled :).


  1. […] also basking in the flexibility that a backyard garden affords (No dinner plan? Off to the garden to pick a salad!) and the freedom that comes from […]

  2. […] also basking in the flexibility that a backyard garden affords (No dinner plan? Off to the garden to pick a salad!) and the freedom that comes from […]

  3. […] *Growing a garden is another idea. If you have a garden, have your kids help you maintain it and care for it. […]

  4. […] also basking in the flexibility that a backyard garden affords (No dinner plan? Off to the garden to pick a salad!) and the freedom that comes from […]