I enjoy gardening with children and love to think of new ways to make it a fun and engaging process for them. I feel it is so important that we as adults foster in our children a respect for living and non living things in our environment.
One of the ways to encourage this respect and desire to participate is through basic gardening activities. It can be as simple as helping them to plant a seed then feed and nurture it until it begins to grow. You can also introduce a little intentional teaching along the way with very little effort but a whole lot of fun! Gardens are interactive and so is the learning – there is always something to see or do, smell or touch!
What Can Children Learn from Gardening?
- Lifecycles – What creatures in the garden do plants need to survive and thrive? What cycles do the plants go through?
- Food cycles and where our food comes from – How does it get to our plate?
- Fine Motor Skills & Eye-hand Coordination – Digging, patting, watering, picking up small seeds, tearing, planting.
- Responsibility, patience and independence – They soon learn that it takes time for plants to grow as they follow and interact with the process.
- Sensory exploration & discovery – Herbs, flowers, textured leaves, wet soil…there is always something for children to explore with their senses.
- Colour recognition – What colour is that flower? Let's harvest only the red tomatoes…so many possibilities!
- Maths Concepts – Sorting, counting, measuring, weighing, same or different? – vegetables, leaves, flowers, compost, herbs!
- Classification – Can you group all the orange vegetables we picked today? Let's put all the flowers in this pot.
- Sustainability – Saving seeds and cuttings to grow more plants.
And so much more but you get the idea – you might be able to tell I am pretty passionate about gardening with children and making it a fun learning activity for them.
Sometimes it's also valuable to introduce a few props and a little imagination to foster a love of gardening and widen the scope of learning possibilities. That's what I decided to do when my children recently showed a keen interest all things garden shops (we *might* possibly spend a little to much time at Bunnings most weekends!) To extend on this interest in shop play we worked together to set up a garden centre in the backyard!
Our outdoor pallet cafe/shop has been many things since we first built it (see how we made it from recycled pallets HERE) but for the past week it has been our garden shop/nursery centre. The addition of a few simple props and some pebbles to act as money stirred those little imaginations into action.
From the role play and conversations I overheard it occurs to me that we perhaps buy a *few* too many plants because these girls certainly knew what they were doing and what they wanted to sell in their shop!
Want to try setting up your own version of a garden shop? You don't need a shopfront like our little cubby – a few simple items and you will all be having fun shopping and gardening!
Setting up a Garden Shop – what do you need?
- A few child height tables or flat surface (easier to plant and scoop soil if their workspace is on their level and they can see everything) Older the better because they will get messy!
- Toy cash registers
- Play money – we just used a bowl of coloured stones – our choice of money when we are playing outdoors!
- Old pots of different sizes, seedling trays, recycled seedling planters – whatever you have. We never throw ours out as they are used for cuttings or in the sandpit or mud kitchen.
- Watering cans
- ‘Green' shopping bags or baskets
- A few punnets of herb, vegetable or flower seedlings for planting and selling
- bag of potting mix
- Gloves (we rarely use them though -just make sure to wash little hands well after using potting mix) trowels or sand scoops for digging and scooping.
- Seeds – optional but we have a lot of seed packets and also seeds that we save from our vegetable garden so we added them to the shop to.
There is no need to have all of these supplies – just use what you have. We do a lot of gardening so we had all of the above already – just needed to buy a few seedlings which we do most weekends anyway! You can do this activity on a much smaller scale – it's about letting the children have fun exploring with their senses and imaginations while immersed in all things nature outdoors. There is no wrong way to garden with children – just guide and then get messy together!
Keeping it Real
Although this was a dramatic play invitation it was also about gardening and being hands on in the process. I worked along side the girls to set up the plants they had chosen and they picked out the pots they thought would work best to ‘sell' in their shop. It was important business and a treat to listen in on their conversations and thought processes as they worked out what they wanted to sell and who would do what part of the shop.
Seeds packets were offered for sale too and it was the perfect opportunity to discuss the size and colour of different seeds and was a fun way for the children to name the different flowers, vegetables and herbs just by looking at the seed packet illustrations. Important to know what you are planting!
Then it was time to plant – always a good opportunity to discuss how much soil is needed, what size pot works, how many to put in each pot and how to dig out a little hole – put the seed or seedling in carefully then pat the soil down gently.
Gardening is such a wonderful sensory experience – Does that plant smell? Is it soft or prickly? What can you see? ….
When they had their chosen plants all potted up it was time to arrange them for sale on their table! I had to hand over the requested number of stones for each purchase. If you wanted to you could add some little price signs and the children could create a sign for their shop.
I always fill up one of our big black tubs with water when we are watering plants in the garden as it saves me constantly using the hose to fill little watering cans and gives them more autonomy with their actions and care of their own plants. It also saves a lot of water!
A simple activity that was easy to set up but added an extra play and learning element to basic gardening. Any type of gardening with children is valuable and well worth the effort but inviting imagination into the garden is a whole lot of fun too! Why not try setting up your own little garden shop invitation to play?
I love to create engaging and different outdoor spaces for children – especially with a focus on nature!
A Little About Me
Jodie Clarke is an early childhood professional supporting educators who want and need to stay passionate about the work they do! She has 30 years hands-on experience in the early childhood and human services sectors across many different roles.
Jodie is mum to 3 in Australia and has already helped thousands of educators with their work through her popular blog posts, activity ideas, online training and e-books.