5 Easy Ways to Engage Kids in Gardening
Gardening and garden space are extraordinary teaching tools for Head Start educators. Kids of all ages gain so much, including knowledge about nutritious food, an understanding of the natural world, and a chance to watch something grow.
It is rare for me to find an early childhood educator who would not like to have a garden. But find starting and maintaining a garden a daunting task when combined with all of their other responsibilities. This is the reason why we always give the advice: “Start small and dream big!”
It is important to find the right garden programming to fit your needs and resources. Then, you can grow over time. Fortunately, there are many paths you can take into the garden world. Here are five easy ways to get started.
Gather a Collection of Garden-Related Children’s Books.
Begin small by just reading about plants and gardens. Exploring through pictures and words can help kids better appreciate the natural world that they have access to in their daily life. You can find some book suggestions by checking out the winners of the Growing Good Kids Book Awards and the Ready Set Grow Multicultural Collection.
Search for Garden Spaces and Opportunities in your Community.
Whether you have the ability to take a field trip or you would rather invite experts to come share about plants in your space, you are likely to find local garden enthusiasts in your community who would love the chance to plant the love of gardening in your kids and their families. Start by searching for local public gardens on the American Public Gardens Association Directory, scoping out community gardens through the American Community Gardening Association, or reaching out to your state’s Master Gardener Program.
Adopt a Local Space.
Find a garden or natural area to visit throughout the year with your kids. This may be at a local park, library, or community garden. Optimally, it will be a space you can visit on a regular basis so you track how it changes throughout the season. You may or may not be able to participate in regular maintenance of the site, you can ask the caretakers of the spot if there is some way for your class to make a contribution.
Start Container Gardens.
Container gardens are the perfect way to start your garden adventures! A container garden can be as simple as a few pots of herbs in a window box or large, outdoor tubs with seasonally rotating plants. Just about anything that can hold soil and has drainage holes can make a space for a plant to grow. You can keep containers indoors or outdoors. Explore all of the possibilities and check out instructions for simple container gardens in five-gallon buckets.
Participate in Growing Activities that do not Need a Garden Space.
From a simple seed viewer using dried soup beans to a grassy plant pal, you do not need an actual garden space to be a gardening classroom. There are many garden-related activities that can be done with simple common household supplies. Explore activities and lesson ideas on KidsGardening’s early childhood resources page.
Last but not least, check out my Gardening with Kids Basics class at The Academy, Head Start’s home for professional learning. You will learn best practices to start and sustain a successful garden program. This course is made possible by the Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation’s GroMoreGood initiative, which offers garden grants, educational curriculum, webinars, and more.
Thank you to Sarah Pounders for this guest resource. While working toward her master’s degree in Horticultural Sciences at Texas A&M University, Sarah served as a school garden coordinator and conducted research on the benefits of using school garden programs to teach nutrition. She went on to work at various botanical gardens and for Cooperative Extension in Virginia and Texas. Since 2005, Sarah has been an education specialist at KidsGardening, coordinating numerous children’s gardens and writing curricula and activities for youth of all ages. Sarah enjoys gardening at home with her two children and serves as the volunteer garden coordinator at her son’s elementary school.