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The dirt on gardening with kids

Posted on May 19, 2016 at 6:00 am

By Rachel Edmondson

I feel the need to start with a disclaimer: I do not have a green thumb. Nowhere close to it. That said, we have a small, raised garden bed in our backyard, and each year we’ve attempted to grow a few vegetables with varying success.

Before our kids came into our life, we mostly gardened because we love fresh tomatoes, and zucchini is so easy to grow it felt like a crime to buy it.

Now that kids have entered the mix, gardening has taken on a new role. We still grow tomatoes and zucchinis, but now we also let the kids pick some items to grow. They love helping out and watching the garden grow throughout the summer. They also love to harvest what we have grown, taking great pride in the fact that they helped. Our youngest likes to harvest the cherry tomatoes by eating them straight off the vine. Last year we decided to add blueberry bushes to our yard, and between our two girls, I don’t think a single blueberry made it into our house unless it was already inside a small tummy.

Since our girls love to get in the dirt and “help” us grow things, we are planning to grow some veggies again this summer. But after a few years of just throwing seeds and starts in the ground and wishing for the best, I thought maybe it was time for us to consult the experts. Because gardening has become a family affair, I wanted to find books that were specifically about gardening with kids. I found a few gems in the Library District’s collection, and they have me excited to see what this year’s garden will produce.

So if your family could use some inspiration (or like me, you have no idea what you’re really doing), check out these titles and put your little gardeners to work!


Grow It, Cook It  by DK Publishing

This book has beautiful, appealing pictures and a simple, but fun, layout. The book starts with gardening basics and then focuses on one plant at a time. Each plant’s section ends with a recipe. For example, learn all about how to grow zucchini and then try out the recipe for a zucchini frittata. Along the way tips are included such as suggested companion plants, how to pick correctly, and saving seeds.





Garden to Table: A Kid’s Guide to Planting, Growing, and Preparing Food  by Katherine Hengel

This book is heavier on recipes than how-to gardening information, but it does give basic instructions and advice for how to grow basil, carrots, green beans, leaf lettuce, potatoes, and tomatoes in containers. With its focus on container gardening, this is a great book for families that don’t have much space for a garden. And, once your vegetables are grown, each vegetable section includes 6 easy and kid-friendly recipes to try.


Young Gardener  by Stefan and Beverley Buczacki

This book combines gardening, science, and art. Organized by season beginning with “early spring,” it has tons of information on what is going on in the garden and in nature during each season. It contains simple instructions for what kinds of gardening can be done during each season and fun project ideas. This book will help keep your child interacting with the plant world year round. For a newbie who has no idea what to do or when, this book is a great place to start.




Ready Set Grow!  by DK Publishing

This book is great for people who crave creative crafts and want to start with a fun project to try it out. This book won’t be helpful if you want to start a full-blown garden. So if you want to introduce your kids to the world of growing things with fun, creative projects, then this book is for you. You can make flower pot people. Or try growing a pizza garden, so you have all the veggies and herbs to make your own fantastic pies. Or you can try out one of their suggested one-week sprouters. Each project gives an estimated timeline for completion ranging from 1 hour to make garden decorations to 12 weeks for some of the flower, fruit, and veggie-based projects.


The Garden Classroom: Hands-On Activities in Math, Science, Literacy & Art  by Cathy James

This book contains tons of ideas on how to take classroom learning outside. It directly connects subject areas with the activities suggested. For example, it shows how to have a “Plant Olympics” to practice math skills such as counting, measuring, and weighing. Children compete to find specific plants, such as the pea pod with the most peas, the sunflower head with the biggest diameter, the heaviest squash, or the longest carrot. Homeschooling families may find this book particularly appealing.

For adventurous parents and kids, check out the Hobbies & Crafts Reference Center in our Digital Library. Within the Home & Garden category, you’ll find guides on working with worms, preserving seeds from your own garden, and keeping houseplants alive.