8 Tips For Gardening With Your Toddler

Written by: Monti Kids



Time to read min

Montessori-Inspired Tips for Gardening with your Toddler

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Gardening with your toddler can provide valuable opportunities to learn about nature, caring for their environment, and patience. It can also help foster a sense of independence and encourage a love for healthy, fresh foods. Working together to collaborate and plant the seeds and plants, care for them and observe their growth, and reap the benefits of hard work and patience when you harvest is an immense exercise in executive functioning as well. Here, we will share tips for successfully planting gardens with toddlers, and how to encourage independence along the way.

#1: Start With Small And Manageable Projects

When it comes to gardening with your toddler, it's important to start with small and manageable projects. This will help prevent frustration and ensure success. A good way to start is by planting herbs or vegetables in pots. In colder climates, you can plant seeds inside at a window and start the process before the ground is ready to take them. This allows children to take care of the plants in a smaller space that is easier to manage. Once they have gained some experience and confidence, you can move on to bigger projects, such as planting in a raised bed or even starting a small vegetable garden. Check out these indoor and outdoor solutions for your project!

Toddler Watering a plant

#2: Involve children in every step of the process

To encourage independence, it's important to involve children in every step of the gardening process. Even before you start gardening with your toddler, finding books at the library that talk about the plant life cycle or planting a garden will give them context for what they will be doing and why. After you’ve done your research, involve your little one in choosing what to plant, preparing the soil, planting the seeds or seedlings, watering the plants, and eventually harvesting the produce. By involving children in the entire process, they will gain a sense of ownership and responsibility for the garden, and they will be more likely to take care of it.

Toddler & The First Foods Book

#3: Use child-sized tools and equipment

Another way to encourage independence when gardening with your toddler is to provide children with child-sized tools and equipment. Using adult sized tools for their work can be frustrating as they are much harder to yield and manage. Finding child-sized gloves, shovels, watering cans, and even wheelbarrows will allow them to join in with success as they are easier for little ones to handle and will help them feel more confident and capable. This is also an important step to take for safety as they begin to use more real life tools to do this real life work.

Toddler using a Child-Sized watering can

#4: Keep it simple and low-maintenance

When gardening with your toddler, it's important to keep it simple and low-maintenance. This means choosing plants that are easy to grow and care for, such as herbs, lettuce, and cherry tomatoes. This also means that growth will happen sooner and they’ll be able to see the results of their work much sooner than those that start off slowly. It also means avoiding plants that require a lot of maintenance, such as high-maintenance flowers or fruits that require a lot of pruning. Keeping it simple will help ensure success and prevent frustration for both children and parents.

Mom and child admiring new seed growth

#5: Create a routine and stick to it

Creating a routine and sticking to it is important when gardening (or with anything else) with your toddler. This includes setting a regular time for watering the plants, checking for pests or disease, and harvesting the produce. By creating a routine, children will know what comes next and will be more likely to take care of the garden on their own. It's also important to make sure the routine is realistic and manageable for both children and parents. Try adding a sticker to your family calendar each day that watering needs to be done as a visual reminder to support your little one's independence.

Toddler enjoying time in the garden

#6: Use the garden as a sensory learning opportunity

One of the greatest benefits of gardening with your toddler is the opportunity to learn about nature, science, and even math. Use the garden as a learning opportunity by talking about the life cycle of plants, the role of pollinators, and the importance of soil health. You can also use the garden to teach math skills by measuring the growth of the plants or counting the number of fruits or vegetables harvested. For older children they can keep a journal of either pictures or even their measurements as the growth progresses.

Parent pointing at a plant for child to see

#7: Encourage exploration and creativity

Encouraging exploration and creativity is another way to promote independence and engagement when gardening with your toddler. Let children explore the garden on their own, and with their senses. They can smell the leaves, touch the stems, compare different flowers or colors, and eventually taste the harvest! Using their senses to learn about new vocabulary deepens the meaning of the new words for them and makes it more likely that they will remember it.

A little boy smelling flowers

#8: Celebrate successes and failures

Finally, it's important to celebrate both successes and failures when gardening with your toddler. Celebrate the first sprout that emerges from the soil, and celebrate the first tomato that is harvested. But also celebrate the failures, such as when a plant doesn't grow or a crop doesn't turn out as expected. Use these failures as learning opportunities, and encourage children to problem-solve and come up with ideas for how to improve in the future.

Toddler eating a veggie outside

Gardening with your toddler can be a wonderful and rewarding experience for both children and parents. By starting with small and manageable projects, involving children in every step of the process, using child-sized tools and equipment, keeping it simple and low-maintenance, creating a routine and sticking to it, you can help foster independence, responsibility, and a love for nature and healthy foods in your child. Happy gardening!

Dad and baby reading about the outdoors