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3 easy ways to garden with your kids

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, our current book club selection, has convicted me that I want to pass on to my children, by the time they leave our household, a foundational knowledge of where food comes from.

They don’t have to be farm-ready, and they don’t even need to like gardening.  But I want them to appreciate the process behind the food staring at them from the plate.  And more importantly, I want them to know what real food is.

I’m a novice gardener, if you can even call it that.  I’m learning, slowly.  But I don’t want that to stop me from taking my children along for the ride as we learn together.

Simple ways to garden with kids

Even if you live in an apartment, you can still garden.  No matter what plot size you have to work with, your family can do something.  Here are a few ideas:

1.  Start an herb garden.

These are great for kids because they’re virtually fool-proof, and they’re great for you because they provide abundant flavor for your family’s meals.  They don’t take much – a bit of soil, lots of sunlight, and watering.

You can easily transplant starters from your local nursery, but you can also start from seeds and use the process as a learning experiment for your kids.  Seeds are tiny, and it’s a great visual lesson at where our food begins.

This weekend, my daughter and I started some herb seeds using a simple toilet paper roll method I learned at You Grow Girl:

Once the herbs are ready for containers or beds, simply plop the whole toilet paper roll in the soil – it’ll break down naturally.

2. Give your kids containers.

My four-year-old daughter is in to all things pink, which means her favorite desserts usually have something to do with strawberries.  So this summer, she’ll oversee a little galvanized bucket of strawberries – hopefully we’ll soon enjoy some good shortcake from her crop.  Strawberries are hardy little guys, and most kids love them.

Another fun kid-friendly idea is a pizza planter.  Pick a frugal, creative container and grow all in one bucket a tomato plant, oregano, basil, thyme peppers, and any other container-friendly pizza topping.  Make homemade pizza every weekend, and your kids will enjoy heading to their own garden for the ingredients.

3.  Try your hand at square-foot gardening.

We hope to try this next month, but Jason at Frugal Dad already wrote about his experience last spring.  Basically, you create a simple raised bed, which can be placed either directly on the ground, or with a bottom layer to rest on balconies and porches.  Divide up the soil in square foot sections, and grow a plant in each section – after harvesting, simply start a new plant.

Give each of your kids a square foot to oversee, and let them pick their plants.

For more inspiration, read up on these gardening sites:

How do you encourage making heatlhy food choices with your kids?  Do you garden as a family?  What are some other ways to instill a value of real food?

Reading Time:

2 minutes





  1. Dominique

    We stay in an apartment so there is no space for a garden. However the kids are able to do gardening in school. Each class is given a small plot where they can plant herbs or flowers and they are to take turns to tend to their plants. I find it a great way for kids to get in touch with nature.

    Dominique´s last blog post…Easter – A Time for Spritual Evaluation

    • Martha

      We do the same thing with growing TickleMe Plant in class. I’m not saying growing beans like they do in some classes is boring but I will say the kids in my class are more then thrilled to grow a pet like plant in class that suddenly moves and closes its leaflets when Tickled! The leaves re-open in minutes! This is going to catch on like crazy.
      See video the grow them.

  2. Nicole

    thanks for these great ideas. i love the toilet paper herb starter and the pizza idea. i have two thumbs but neither are green. i hope to change this little by little-just like you’re seeking to do. your ideas encourage me to get out and find some ways to do small things this spring.

    i’m blogging about Easter this week and unique ways to celebrate by considering all that happened to Jesus in his last days on Earth. i hope you’ll join me this week.

    and, my giveaway for a Bible storytelling cloth ends tonight-

    Nicole´s last blog post…5 Ways to Celebrate Easter

  3. melanie

    we just made pizza last night. (yes the dough was from a pop open container…but we are making progess.) it was SO much fun…easy and entertaining. i think we are going to do this once a week so planting our own herbs is a great idea! thanks

    melanie´s last blog post…Teacher Link Love: NC Dept of Edu

  4. Nicki at Domestic Cents

    My daughter (almost 3) likes to “garden” with me. It usually involves her digging in my garden or running through the rows and giving me heart failure though. Maybe I’ll let her be in charge of a container plant this year 🙂 Thanks for the tips!

    Nicki at Domestic Cents´s last blog post…Quick Tip: Cut Off The Bag

  5. Bethany

    We are trying our hands at gardening this year. We decided to use out kiddie pool that my boys have outgrown (the blue plastic kind from Walmart). We just drilled holes in the bottom for drainage, and filled it up with organic planting mixes. I love the idea of recycling something that would have otherwise met its fate in a landfill!

    • Tsh

      That’s a great idea, Bethany.

    • Bonnie

      I love this idea too! I was thinking tonight how I wanted to make some boxes for the kids but now I might just use our old blue plastic pool that the kids have outgrown. Great thinking!


    We’re trying our hand at container gardening with our three preschoolers for the first time this year, too. We’re using a great book I found called Grow It, Cook It. We just prepared our sunny garden spot yesterday – seeds are next!

    Jamie´s last blog post…inspiration for your weekend

  7. Miko's Girl

    Nice article – thanks for the references ! I have had a vegetable garden of sorts throughout my life. My kids when they were old enough to walk would graze on the herbs I grew on my porch (one spring I had to buy 3 large containers of basic because C. ate the basil down to the stems – I’ve grown wiser and now grow herbs on the porch, in the flower bed, and a row of basil and parsley in the vegetable garden).

    I was pretty hard core of the junk food when the kids were little. As a reward for me , my kids ate veggies their friends would turn their noses up at. G’s favorite veggies are broccoli and sweet potatoes, C. loves fresh lima beans (and they cost as much as steak at the farmer’s market-but I’m a sucker and I buy them-who can turn down a kid that begs for lima beans). I’ve always made the kids aware of the food chain – some animals are meat eaters, some are plant eaters – we are meat eaters and that steak came from a cow, the ham came from a pig, and the chicken, well, is self-explanatory.

    And, the girls have a little pot of flowers on the porch that they have picked out.

    Good luck with your gardening adventures.

    Miko’s Girl´s last blog post…Daring List for Brides

  8. Taylor at Household Management 101

    I have a black thumb, so I have never tried this before. I have been reading a lot about square foot gardening though, and it sounds like it could really work. I think I just need to get my mind ready for it!

  9. Kirwin

    I love, love, love the toilet paper rolls as seed starters. It’s too late to do it this year, as we’re starting seeds this week (and don’t go through that much toilet paper!) I’ll def start saving my tubes for next year, though.

    My kids are great in the garden. My five-year old has more of an opinion on what to plant (than my almost-three year old) but they’re equally into digging, and watering, and bug collecting

    Kirwin´s last blog post…Edit, Add, Appreciate

  10. Kat

    I just started container gardening for the first time. My 2-yr-old enjoyed playing in the dirt and moving around the signs. I’m sure we’ll have a lot of fun growing things this summer and I’m glad that he gets to see where the food comes from as well.

    Thanks for the tips!

    Kat´s last blog post…Rough Weekend

  11. Alger

    This is wonderful. Fresh food is incredibly important and sharing the process with children will help put them on the path to good nutrition. Plus, gardening is fun!

  12. MB

    A very timely post as I just started writing about our garden plans. We are also incorporating food into our garden that our oldest son loves. He loves to pick blueberries and tomatoes and yesterday we got him a pumpkin starter seed kit (his pick). He loves to garden…well anything that involves dirt really!

    MB´s last blog post…Food Garden Plans

  13. remee @ FIMBY

    Animal, vegetable, miracle – that was a great book. I read it last year and wrote a review you can read here:
    That book encouraged me also in my desire to teach my children about growing and eating good food.

    I personally think they way you teach children is by living. If you live a life of gardening, buying local foods, cooking & eating together, that’s what your children learn. You don’t have to have nutrition lessons with your children or garden lessons if it’s something you DO with them.

    If you want your kids to eat healthy food – cook it. If there’s nothing else to eat (I mean literally, no crackers in the cupboards etc…) they’ll learn to enjoy their veggies. I have 3 children who scarf down veggies each and every day.

    If you want them to value food grown from gardens and farms – grow it and buy food from farms. And let them get their hands & feet dirty. Each of my children has a garden space, they choose to grow mostly flowers because they know I’ll grow the veggies.

    Ok, that’s enough preaching – sorry. I just happen to feel very strongly about gardens, growing your own, eating healthy & buying local and instilling these values in my children.

    Oh, and I’m giving away some garden seeds on my blog, see the comment luv post

    remee @ FIMBY´s last blog post…Planting the Raised Bed & A Seed Giveaway

    • Asha

      “If there’s nothing else to eat (I mean literally, no crackers in the cupboards etc…) ”
      That is so true! Never thought of it this way though. Thanks 🙂

  14. Amy

    We have a backyard garden and my kids help plant, weed, and harvest. This weekend, my 2 year old help fill the jiffy cups with sterile seed soil. They also spend all some grazing on the blueberry, strawberry, raspberry and tomato plants. We also join a CSA and are able to visit the farm at the end of the summer which helps make the connection. When my oldest was 2, we raised cows at my grandparents and we took him to see them.

    Amy´s last blog post…Ahhh… Sunshine, let spring begin

  15. Valerie

    I am in love with my summer veggie garden. I can’t wait to get started this year, but in my climate, I have to wait a few more weeks. The toilet paper tubes are a very fun idea. Last year I started seeds in egg shells. Just saved shell halves, filled with soil and planted the seeds. I kept them upright in the egg carton in a sunny spot. Then we planted the whole egg shell in the ground when they were ready. It worked great and was a fun project with the kids. I need to get started on that this year soon!

  16. Amanda @ Mommy's Idea Book

    Last year we decided to try growing tomatoes. We used 5 gallon buckets to grow them in, not very pretty but they worked quite well. My son helped me plant the tomatoes and helped me keep them watered.

    I would really like to try the square foot gardening. It seems like a great idea. Thanks for the tips!

    Amanda @ Mommy’s Idea Book´s last blog post…Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

  17. Aimee

    Great post, Tsh! After cooking with mum, I think gardening is second on our list of favorite things to do! Now we just need it to warm up! We had snow yesterday–not very encouraging.

    Aimee´s last blog post…UtHC Bulletin and a Giveaway!

  18. RML

    We starting planting on our balcony today – this year in my new “frugal frame of mind” I told my husband that I mostly wanted things we can eat out there – no need for flowers – so lots of lettuce, rocket, tomatoes, cucumber, strawberries, blueberries (we have a plant already that survived the winter), herbs etc.

    I am looking forward to my daily harvest 🙂

    RML´s last blog post…Today I am Dusting (and other stuff)…

  19. Sherri (Serene Journey)

    Good post Tsh! We will be trying the container garden this summer. We usually plant vegetables like lettuce, peppers, and spinach in large pots on the deck. They do really well.

    My kids are still very young, a little too young to truly help in the garden but they will be out there participating/playing. I try to instill the value of real food by eating at home and baking from scratch as much as I can. It’s so important to make healthy food choices from day one with little ones, and so far so good.

    Thanks for the tips!

    Sherri (Serene Journey)´s last blog post…3 Important Questions To Consider

  20. lvlc

    Last year was our first vegetable garden! and it was a total success. But the thing that I enjoyed the most was to do it with my son! To see his face when he noticed the plants were growing and to harvest their fruits… was priceless! This year we are doing it again, implementing the square foot method. I’ll post pictures of progress in my blog to share with friends, lots have tried when they saw my pictures from last year. 🙂

    lvlc´s last blog post…Freezing Dinner Leftovers…

  21. kristen

    The kids and I started a garden last week. Watermellon, carrots, corn, and big max pumpkins. I am so excited to see what is to come. I will have to post pictures on my blog soon. Thanks for all of your great tips.
    Take care,

  22. Megan@SortaCrunchy

    Fantastic and SO TIMELY post! Last summer, we lived at my in-laws for two months and both girls became so enthralled with and so spoiled to cherry tomatoes warm and fresh from the vine. We have been trying to decide which veggies to start with this year.

    The ideas you shared are amazing. I particularly love the square foot idea. Our soil is rocky and unpredictable – this would be such a great solution.

    Megan@SortaCrunchy´s last blog post…Holy Week: Monday

  23. List Mama (Jen)

    I see you are as inspired by this book as I have been in recent weeks. I am slowly making my way through it on CD. I am absorbing every truth and insight I can. I am looking at the value of food in a whole new way. In fact, I am also using my inspiration as fodder for List Mama Blog. I LOVE it when I read something that makes such an impact on me personally. And I LOVE the toilet paper roll gardening idea! Thanks!


    List Mama (Jen)´s last blog post…List of Ways to Improve your Food Value

  24. Cori

    Love the ideas! I receive the ‘ideal bite’ everyday with green tips and the ‘mama bite’ today was about gardening. I posted a comment and gave your post a shout-out. LOVE the tp roll planting idea!

    Cori´s last blog post…Moving Day

  25. Angie @ The Creative Mama

    We are in an apartment and have done some container gardening – my 4 yr old is LOVING watching the process! We started carrots and cucumbers from seeds and they are each now about an inch tall – our strawberries and tomatoes (were already started) are doing great as well!

    It’s a great learning experience for all of us!

    Angie @ The Creative Mama´s last blog post…my little corner of the world.

  26. Heather Allard

    What a great post! Today is my daughter Gracie’s 6th birthday and every year she asks for “gardening stuff”. I bought seeds, watering can, a gardening journal (that I picked up at Michael’s for 49 CENTS!), a carry-all and a seed starter kit.

    It’s so fun to see the seeds begin to sprout and if what you planted produces FOOD to eat, even better!!! 🙂

    Thanks so much–I’m going to check out the other sites you mentioned.


    Heather Allard´s last blog post…You Won A FREE 125X125 Ad on The Mogul Mom!

  27. Rebecca

    Okay, this post may be the push I needed to get going on this. My son has been asking me if we could plant some seeds. I just always seem to kill most of what I attempt to grow! I love the pizza planter idea. Sounds like a lot of fun!

  28. Bridgette

    I just started my outdoor gardens this weekend. It was so much fun to involve my 22 month old! He dug in the dirt and even helped me plant peas! We are also using the square-foot method and I am excited about our future harvest.

    Bridgette´s last blog post…More Free Chick-fil-a!!

  29. Allegra

    I am so inspired by the idea of square-food gardening. I have the book, and every Spring start to think about where I might set my little garden up. Unfortunately, I’m always discouraged by the lack of direct sunlight in my yard! Perhaps this year….

    Allegra´s last blog post…A couple of Sunday thoughts for my dear readers

  30. Lee

    Don’t forget Earth boxes! These are great for small areas or large backyards where you have to chase the sun (or run away from it). These are bottom-up watering containers that can handle everything from herbs to full size corn. I’ve had 3 for several years and they are very easy.

    If you live in a mosquito-friendly area (and who doesn’t these days) you can tape a square of window screen mesh over the overflow opening with duct tape, and also over the tube at the top where you direct the hose to reach the resevoir underneath. I started this last year and it kept the little biters out.

    Here I am with my crop of tomatoes grown in Germany a couple of years ago.

    Lee´s last blog post…A Tale of Two Princesses

  31. Tashia

    I have been reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and it is such an eye opener for me. I was not all that concerned before about how my food got to my table, I have a whole different outlook now. I discovered that the grapes at my supermarket came from Chile and other fruit from Argentina (something I had never looked at before). We have done a little gardening the past few years, but I think this year we will try to do a lot more. I want my kids to know where their food comes from!

  32. Tara Burner

    I live in 3rd floor apt but have containers, earth boxes and other pots/planters on balcony growing cabbage, radishes, green beans, onions, hot peppers, green peppers, broccoli, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes and herbs. Gotta love containers, earth boxes!
    and my daughter gets involved and my son (20 yrs old) and his friends are amazed at what all can be done out there on a balcony!

    Tara Burner´s last blog post…Featured in Sun Sentinel

  33. Abby

    Great post! We’re hoping to grow lots of our own food and do lots of preserving this summer. Great ideas to get kids involved, especially herb starters in toilet paper rolls. I definitely plan to set a plot aside for my son to plant in when he’s a little older.

    There was a great five year kitchen garden plan in Herb Companion Magazine last month. You can access it here if you’re looking for some inspiration.

    Abby´s last blog post…Thinking Outside the Toy Box

  34. Adrian

    Yes the toilet paper rolls are a great idea, and the kids can pick what they want to grow… this might just work 😀

    I’m gonna have to get to work on the square-foot gardening idea, although I might have to make my hubby make the frame for me.

    Adrian´s last blog post…The Healing Foods

  35. Cheryl

    What a great idea. I have been saving my toilet paper rolls and now I know what to do with them. My husband thinks I am strange saving them but I knew that at some point in time I could use them for something and my 3 1/2 year old can help too and watch the plants grow. Thanks!

  36. laurie

    We planted most of our vegetables today, peas, beets, carrots, chives, lettuces and the last will be onions- maybe tomorrow. But, we have had no success with tomatoes (love fresh tomatoes) and I think I will try the 5 gal bucket method (thanks). I get great satisfaction from gardening and my kids love the veggies straight from the garden!! Our new addition this year is actually chickens. Can’t wait to have eggs!

  37. Krista

    we are blessed with an enormous backyard with lots of room for gardening of both the veggie and flower variety 🙂 last year we started with tomatoes and peppers, and had a bumper crop of both. this year we are adding a few more veggies including lettuce. Josh loves helping me with watering and weeding, and he is totally fascinated at how the plants and veggies grow.

    my son told me that he wanted to grow pumpkins, and since the original owner of our home was a champion pumpkin grower, we thought maybe the dirt around here might be good for that 🙂 so we’ve scoped out a good spot and we’re going to give it a try!

    Krista´s last blog post…getting back into the groove

  38. Easy Home Cook

    I am trying a new project call the backyard to table project to document progress of creating great vegetables and bring them to family meals. Kids love to see the results of their labor.

    Good site

    Easy Home cook

    Easy Home Cook´s last blog post…Picking Seeds

  39. Asha

    Great post, and so important too. Its also such fun to ‘garden’ with kids.
    I have small patches of a vegetable garden as well as do some vermicomposting. My daughter loves being my helper. She basically hangs around and does her thing (including taking pics!). I know that in time, this will definitely develop into a love for gardening.

    Asha´s last blog post…Guess whats for Supper?

  40. Deanne

    We love square foot gardening. With the exception of where the bird feeder overhang it in one corner we had no weeding, the produce was very healthy and easy to maintain, and it’s right outside my kitchen door. The older girls loved growing radishes, beets, spinach, leaf lettuces, onions, herbs, and two tomato plants grew up a trellis. This was all in one year up north where our growing season can be limited and in a spot only 2ft by 8ft. We are just getting started planning what we will grow this year and they both asked for beets again!

    Deanne´s last blog post…Easter Dinner-advice for eating in or out

  41. Shaina

    I am patiently waiting for it to get warm enough to get my garden going. It’s still cold here and freezes at night, but the herb garden is in the works. The toilet paper roll method is fantastic! Our kids also care for a few everbearing strawberries in the summer that we have in hanging pots or perched on various flat surfaces around the yard (to keep the rabbits out).

    We spend a lot of time at the farmer’s market during the summer buying from local farmers, and we’re going to buy a share in a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm – like a co-op – that will then give us local, organic fruits and vegetables for the summer months. I definitely plan on bringing the kids along to the farm when we pick up our boxes. (They also offer pick-up sites around our metro area.)

    Thanks for the wonderful ideas. I can’t wait for warm weather to hit to implement them.

    Shaina´s last blog post…Cornbread Dressing for the Lazy

  42. Moos

    I just started my first seeds 2 days ago. They’re already growing. It’s very exciting and children love it! Thanks for this great post!

  43. MamaGoesGreen

    These are all great ideas, and most importantly, they mark a beginning. I think when some people read a book like Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, the problems we’re faced with can seem insurmountable. But if we just take a step in the right direction, the next step won’t seem so hard! Added together, we’ll make a real difference! Even if you can’t grow a garden, take your kids to the farmer’s market with you, and the grocery store. Show them that buying a watermelon from Mexico doesn’t make sense. They’ll remember when they begin to make their own food choices one day.

    MamaGoesGreen´s last blog post…Joel Salatin – Ballet of the Pasture

  44. Heather@WoolandFlax

    Wow, it looks like I should try reading a book to help with my gardening skills! Don’t know why I never thought of that!

    I’ve had fresh basil in my window for a couple years now, and it’s wonderful! This year I’m adding cilantro. We also have an outdoor garden that has had moderate success. 🙂

    My boys and I planted a few pinto beans, and we dug up a couple as they were growing so they could see the roots starting to sprout. We now have a couple bean plants that we’ll try outside in their garden. It was really fun!

    Heather@WoolandFlax´s last blog post…Looking at Art

  45. Kim @ Forever Wherever

    I love the idea of growing vegetables with kids. We have 3 raised beds that we are square foot gardening with this year. Pots of herbs hanging on the porch for me, and flowers {lots of flowers} all over. We made our pots out of paper and it has worked out great! Worms like it, and gardens like worms!


    Kim @ Forever Wherever´s last blog post…Tasty Tuesday – Lunch Time!

  46. Abby Jartos

    We’re doing a square-foot garden this year, after having huge success with a tiny little patch of two tomato and two pepper plants last year. Because we grew them, my three-year-old daughter now LOVES to eat tomatoes and peppers. So, I’ve gotten just about every plant and seed I can get my hands on, trying to get her to expand her vegetable list! Getting her out into the dirt has been huge – she doesn’t like to be dirty, and is generally afraid of flying bugs – but the garden has encouraged her to love to get out in the sunshine and watch things grow.

  47. Michelle

    Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is one of my all time favorite books! We recently got some chickens and also cleaned out a yucky old bed in the yard to plant a vegetable garden. The kids are so excited to plant their own section – their veggies of choice include carrots, bell peppers and little gems lettuce. Thanks for a great article!

    Michelle´s last blog post…Playing with Food – Using Food to Dye our Easter Eggs

  48. Onna

    I love this!! I am going to try to do this!! I love gardening with my kids. I made a box vegetable garden last year, and a container herb garden, but I didn’t start it from seeds-which I think would be fun for the kids!!

    Onna´s last blog post…Paper Plate Tambourine

  49. Mike

    HI! Love the post, and all the comments. Kids can learn SO MUCH from gardening. Even “just the food” part is valuable, but it can mean so much more. A feeling of connection to the EARTH is a HUGE thing!

    Erika sent us a great story about teaching her children to value LEARNING through gardening. Great video, check it out here:

    Hope you like it!

    -Mike / Mutual of Omaha

  50. BK

    These are interesting way which most people can use to start gardening with their kids. Over here in Singapore where most people are staying in apartment kind of environment, we can certainly start such a project which doesn’t require a big space. And this is a wonderful way to teach kids about food.
    .-= BK´s last blog ..A Better Us Through Self-Discipline =-.

  51. omaha

    Thanks for this write-up. Gardening with kids is such a wonderful way to teach them about food and their environment. It can be done in cities too! Here is a fun tale of a city girl turned urban farmer in Omaha using the square foot garden approach. Cheers!

  52. Stan Horst

    We’ve used both containers and the square foot garden, and I like them both. Our square foot garden has worked very well for involving the children. Our daughter especially likes to plant, and then to watch and see them as they come up. It has even helped her to appreciate some of her veggies a little more.

  53. Romona

    We have always engaged our children in gardening. At an early age, they started the seeds in containers inside, and when Springtime arrived it was excitement!
    Our kids have come to really appreciate organic food through gardening.

  54. Troy

    My wife and I have been trying to get our children more interested in food at home than fast food, and have been thinking about getting them to help with some gardening raising some food and then teaching them how to prepare it.

    As I grew up our family always had a garden and I remember how great the fresh veggies tasted.

  55. Nicole Robinson

    This is a fabulous post. You’ve convinced me to not let lack of space or my non-green thumb get in the way of the small garden I have been wanting to do. Thanks for the insights.

  56. Eva

    Such a great post with so many useful references. I truly believe that starting a herb garden with kids is a great way to not only educate them about the food chain, but also get them outside, active and involved. It is such a healthy idea in so many ways. I’ve always found kids that are involved with their food –be it by growing or preparing it- are more likely to eat and enjoy it. And it’s so simple to do! I hope more people take on board some of these great ideas.

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