Kids LOVE being outdoors and love to get stuck in the garden. Flower potions and mud kitchens are a favourite for all kids outdoors. But what other easy Toddler Gardening Ideas can you give a go? We have a great idea set of garden activities you can try out with your toddler or preschooler this year. A great way to get young children learning about growing things and looking after them! As we head into the summer months, why not give these a go?
Today we will answer questions like
- What can I do with my 2 year old in the garden?
- How do I start my toddler gardening?
- When should children start gardening?
- Is it too early to start planting a garden?
Basic Toddler Garden Tools & Equipment
You don’t need much to get kids busy in the garden. We have some simple ideas for you today. If you are in investing in toddler garden equipment, I really think you only need:
- a small watering can (though you can make your own – having said that, kids love love love to water, so investing in a small watering can, may be a super fun way to keep them engaged as well as to encourage water play)
- some soil/ dirt/ compost & seeds (see more on what things to grow below)
We do have a small metal toddler garden trowel and fork – because the kids do love to dig. But again, strictly speaking you don’t need one, as they can use your trowel (maybe not the fork!). And don’t bother with gloves, toddlers need to get dirt on their hands and have a lot of fun exploring. Gardening is nature’s sensory bin for young children!
You don’t need any plastic plant pots in your kid’s garden – as we will give you alternatives below with our container gardening and recycled material ideas!
When should children start gardening?
It is never too early to start children gardening. From when they can lift a watering can, you can get kids involved outdoors – let them dig in the dirt and water the plants and have fun exploring bugs and worms. Make nature and gardens part of your summer routines from the word go!
And is it too early to start planting a garden?
I can’t answer this in “general” terms as each country, depending on location has it’s own best growing months. But generally speaking, you can start planing in Feb/ March INDOORS and then start moving things outside in April and May. Do check seed packets for more info for your region!!! Generally speaking there are things you can do all year round in the garden – not just planting seeds – but also tidying and clearing in the winter months. Also many trees and shrubs can be planted later in the year, to get them ready for the spring growing season.
Get Toddlers excited Bugs & Biodiversity
Bug Hotels or Insect Hotels, really are a must for EVERY Toddler getting their hands “dirty” in the garden. Encouraging biodiversity into your backyard is so important for any growing activities with kids. Not only is this good for the creatures great and small in your garden, but making these bug hotels is great for fine motor skills, exploring nature items and textures. Win win on so many levels!
As a complimentary activity to your bug hotel, you can make our (free!) Bug Cootie Catcher. This is a great rainy day activity to get your toddler or preschooler excited about BUGS and going back outside once the weather lets up a little. There are different versions available.. but we love the bug quiz.. use it to learn some fun facts, but also as a bug hunt prompt once the weather is dry and you head back outdoors!
Recycled planter ideas for Toddlers
There are lots of ways you can get toddlers planting in the garden. I love introducing recycling concepts form an early age! And recycled is often super fun too!
We have lots of wonderful ways you can upcycle in the garden be it on your own, in a school garden or with your kids! Check out this recycled container garden post for inspiration -as well as our thrifty plant pot post (complete with mini green house). What else would you add?
Newspaper seedling pots are super easy to make – you don’t need any special gadgets that they try and sell you at the garden centre. A glass is all you need for growing seedlings!
What are the best things to grow with toddlers?
Now this is the question people always ask. What should I grow with my toddler! We LOVE growing things that are edible. But combining edible plants with flowers is best. Especially if you also want to attract bees, butterflies and other wildlife (but maybe not slugs and snails! ha). This is a really tricky balance between:
- What is easy to grow
- What grows quickly
- What do toddlers like to taste and eat!
So I recommend you grow a mixture of things to address the different wow factors with toddlers. Over the years, we have created a comfortable routine.
Things that grow quickly:
- Cress – though not all children like to eat it
- Radishes – again, kids often don’t like the taste, but they are fun to grow and harvest
- Grass heads – not one to eat, but a super fun activity regardless
- Beans – any bean really! Growing beans are fun, as you can pop the bean in a jar with tissue paper and watch it grow “right before your eyes”. They also flower and bear fruit (aka vegetables) relatively qiuckly. We love a “purple bean” that turns green when cooked. It grows relatively quickly and my kids love to eat them!
- Lettuce – lettuce grows super quickly.. just watch out for naughty slugs and snails
- Create a herb garden – most herbs grow quickly and are perfect for window sill gardening with toddlers! The question is, whether you can get them to eat them or not (see the cress above!!). Among our favourite herbs to grow from seed are – fennel, basil, parsely and chives. Other herbs such as thyme, rosemary and sage, we buy “ready made” from the garden centre and lasts all year round with some careful tending! Mint is also a fun idea and smells great. It tends to look “dead” at the end of the season, with only some dry stems. But if you cut it back, it will come back like magice the next year. Like raspberries mentioned below, grow mint in a container, as it can spread wildly! Even if you little ones don’t want to eat any of the herbs, they all smell wonderful, have different textures and are great for sensory play or magic potions.
Things that are easy to grow:
- Potatoes – they have that fun “wow” factor too – that from one potato you can grow so many new ones without doing very much! Last year, we had some sprouting potatoes in our potato basket. We trimmed off the sprouts, planted them and had an actual harvest from these! To be fair, it wasn’t many, as they grew a little slower, than if we had planted the whole potato.. but love that these would have normally just been thrown away, yet a little looking after and we turned them into potatoes. Amazing!
- Jerusalem artichokes – they are even easier to grow, but they are a little annoying to cook and most people only ever make soup with them
- Courgettes/ Zucchini – these do take a while but usually once they get going, you don’t have to do much, save by being amazed when the vegetable finally grows. My kids don’t like eating them much though! Note – courgette plants grow very big, so do plan space for them!
Things that kids tend to like to eat – but take a while:
- Tomatoes – these take all summer to grow, so patience is needed! But there is usually things that you can do – eg. seed, transfer to bigger pots, pinch off leaves, water regularly.. so they can be fun to watch grow. I recommend planting cherry tomatoes over regular ones as they ripen more quickly. There are lots of fun varieties and colours to try!
- Strawberries – we have mature plants that give us strawberries every year. There isn’t much for the kids to do, save for pick them, which they LOVE doing doing
- Raspberries – similarly to the strawberries, but I recommend growing these in pots as they can be invasive and spread quickly
- Carrots – carrots are like magic to pull out of the ground (like the potatoes above), but they do take ages to grow so kids may get bored
Other things to grow with toddlers:
All of the following are fantastic for attracting pollinators, such as bees, bumble beens and butterflies into your backyard or garden.
- Sunflowers – growing sunflowers with toddlers and preschoolers is of course a childhood classic. It is fun seeing a little seed grow taller than you – and often taller than mummy and daddy too. Very exciting!
- Sweat peas – these are popular to grow – and my kids seem to “always grow these at school”. Probably because you can pop them in a cup with wet tissue paper and see them grow before your eyes
- Wildflower seedbed if you have space for one – we love collecting poppy seeds in summer and reusing them the following year
- Check out Science Sparks “flower science for toddlers” – a lovely way to add some additional learning!
Toddler mini gardens – a lovely toddler gardening activity!
We have grown mini gardens before too – all you need is a big pot or a plastic container (with drainage), soil/ compost and then some seeds. You can do these with just cress, grass or combine it with herbs and fairy items (see below).
Alternatively you can give terrariums a go! Terrariums are mini gardens in a jar! So fun.
Feeling overwhelmed? Sorry!
Ok.. too much information? Want to get your little one out into the fresh air and excited about the natural world, but don’t feel too confident/ you are always “killing things”?
If you had to pick just ONE activity to get your toddler garden ready, I would probably go for:
- You can start these off indoors on the window sill.
- Then once about 15-30cm tall, plant in a pot outdoors. Maybe prop up with a stick and some string.
- Then jus make sure you water it regularly.
- It SHOULD be a relatively simple garden activity for your toddler and you! 🙂
Other fun Garden Activities for Toddlers and preschoolers
A few years ago, we “invested” in some fairy garden hosues and items. And oh my.. the amount of play time and fun and digging and gardening we have had since has been fantastic! Our fairy house garden lives in a big pot that also houses a small apple tree. We love to decorate it and change it around and plant bulbs or seeds throughout the year.
It has also attracted lots of attention from the neighbourhood toddlers and preschoolers, who love to come and visit and leave notes to our fairies. We invite the little people to take a look and teach them about taking care and not damaging the fairy garden or flowers. For example, I show them the apple blossom and how pretty they are, but that they can’t pick them if they want to come back and see the apples grow (and if luck, eat an apple in Autumn). Lots of teaching and learning opportunities!
If you are making a fairy garden with your toddler – please note – a toddler fairy garden will be played with A LOT. So don’t buy expensive items or breakables. You can introduce more keepsake items as they grow older. And be prepared to refresh the fairy garden regularly with and for them! Toddlers to love to dig and pull and draw and play! Which is great!!!
I hope that this article has inspired you get your toddler gardening this year!! Would love to hear how you get own and what you manage to grow!
If you are looking for some more garden fun, take a peak at our Garden Crafts here: