Nine Fun Gardening Ideas for Children

Green fingers come in many sizes and gardening is a fantastic activity for every age and brings a whole host of physical and mental benefits. Encourage a love of nature and a joy for the garden with the children by working together on some simple, rewarding gardening activities. In this article we highlight nine great gardening ideas for children.

1. Create a Children’s Sensory Garden

Gardens are stimulating for the eyes, but also for your sense of smell, touch, sound and in some cases, taste. Take your time to explore the garden with your children and have fun using all the senses in mind.

If you have scented plants or a herb garden, try and see if they can identify the plants by smell with their eyes closed. Take some time to stand with eyes closed and describe everything they can hear whether it be the rustling of leaves, birds flying around, running water if you have a water feature. Whilst gardening enjoy the texture of your plants. Make rubbings, tracings or still life drawings of leaves as well as bark and explore how petals and foliage create colour on paper when rubbed against it. Of course, be conscious not to do this with any plants that are toxic or irritants when touched.

Callistemon 'inferno' soft for children gardening
Callistemon ‘inferno’

A popular idea with children is creating a fun sensory garden to enhance their gardening experience. Incorporate scented plants, such as Hamamelis, Choisya ternata, Lavender, Salvia and Roses. Grow herbs, fruit, vegetables and edible flowers like Nasturtiums for taste. For texture, try the bark of trees, the soft catkins of Salix, grasses and the unusual texture of succulents.

Whatever you have in your garden now, by focusing on more than just its appearance (as important as that is!) you can inspire your children with gardening ideas and to look out closely and appreciate the world around them.

2. Children Will Love Fast Growing Plants from Seeds

Teaching children that patience is a virtue is commendable and gardening can help with that. Especially for those just getting into it, seeing the fruits of their gardening labours quite quickly will help keep them interested.

Some seeds have a particularly high success rate and grow quickly. Sunflowers, Marigolds, cress, mustard, sweet peas, Nasturtiums, radishes and many herbs are all good rewarding options.

3. Create a Dedicated Children’s Flower Bed

If space allows, giving over a small section of the garden to your children will allow them to hone their green fingers without a parent telling them they are making a terrible mess and not quite doing it right. Equally, you could purchase them their own small trough or planter.

They can then learn to prepare their own bed, digging it over, raking the soil, weeding and incorporating compost and then have the satisfaction of watching their plants germinate. If your children are a little older, you could construct a raised bed together for vegetable growing with careful use and supervision of tools. Whilst doing this you could potentially be giving your children more ideas for gardening.

The plant spacing may be a bit more haphazard than in the rest of the garden, however, we all must start somewhere! You may equally discover that your child’s section becomes one of best in the garden!

4. Tidy Together After Gardening with Children

While children may be averse to tidying their own rooms, helping clear in the open air is much more appealing. Whilst your children inhale the fresh air it could encourage ideas for their future gardening.

Armed with a child-sized wheelbarrow, they can help clear leaves from lawns and remove debris from beds and borders. Weeding is also a satisfying activity, things like learning to spot those less welcome plant guests and how to carefully remove the entire root so it does not reappear.

Read our ‘what to do in the garden by month‘ guides to find out recommended activities each month and get your children to join in!

5. The Idea of Creating Cheerful Containers Are Fun for Children

Container gardening is a wonderful way to exercise creativity and, in many cases, allows the satisfaction of instant impact.

There are so many options what to plant in, from traditional terracotta pots, beautifully coloured containers to wooden barrels, old bath-tubs and unused water features.

Blue flower in pot for children to plant when gardening
Felicia ‘Felicitara Blue’

Choose a good selection of small seasonal plants to combine. Before starting to plant up your container, make sure there is sufficient drainage, with holes in the bottom. If placing on the ground, it can also help to raise on some pot feet if you have them. Next, fill two-thirds full with multi-purpose compost. Arrange the plants, fill them to the top with more compost and firm it in. Water well and continue to water regularly, particularly during sunny spells. Your children should get ideas to lend a hand with the watering can and any other future gardening.

6. Get Some Children’s Gardening Tools

Instil responsibility as well as helping them join in with you in comfort with children’s gardening tools.

Purchase some children’s gardening purpose gloves, making sure those little hands and fingers are protected well. Kent & Stowe also have a dedicated children’s range, which includes; a digging spade and fork, garden rake, hand fork and trowel.

7. Have Fun Amongst Nature Watching with Children

It isn’t just the plants that bring interest to the garden there are many creatures that will also occupy your personal ecosystem that can be fascinating to children.

Hold a birdwatching hour, helping them to identify the most common birds in our gardens. Photograph them if you can and find out more about each species when you are done. Listen to the different sounds on the British Birdsong website. If you do not currently have many birds in your garden, consider getting a bird feeder and window feeders are also available if space is limited.

Search for insects, worms, bees, caterpillars and woodlice. Talk about their habitats and the important role they play in the garden. Talk about some of the plants most loved by bees and most loved by butterflies. Nurture the future generation of conservationists!

child gardening with adult
Child planting with Adult

8. Ideas and Ways Creating a Wildlife Area with Your Children

Our wildlife species are in decline. Together with your children, you can help make your garden a haven for wildlife, whether that’s small changes or with big projects that older children can help with.

In an article for Hillier on gardening for wildlife, TV and radio presenter and wildlife specialist Kate Bradbury shared several ideas for supporting wildlife in gardens and many of these can be done together as a family.

Make bug hotels by bringing together logs, leaves, plant debris and even stones as a prominent garden feature. However, if you are more of a ‘tidy’ gardener, tuck them at the back of your borders where you cannot see them.

Put up a bee habitat. You can either purchase a ready-made one or try constructing your own using planks of wood, bamboo canes and log chunks. The RSPB have a detailed plan for constructing a luxury bee hotel.

Compost together by discussing what can and cannot go into a compost heap and how long it takes items to biodegrade. Then as your compost heap grows you can all enjoy watching the variety of insects doing their work to compact it down!

Dig a small pond. Water in a garden can be a potential hazard for smaller children, but a small pond, (or larger if you have space and your children are water competent) is fantastic for attracting birds, amphibians and insects such as dragonflies.

9. Have Fun Growing Vegetables with Children

Growing your own produce is fantastic in so many ways. When gardening with children they get to understand exactly where the food that appears in our shops comes from. It is always good as well to appreciate the beautiful flavour of your own home-grown freshly picked vegetables.

Many vegetables are easy to grow so good for beginners as well as being useful in a variety of recipes.

It might not always be a child’s favourite but salad plants are extremely quick-growing, from seed to plate in a matter of weeks. Perhaps it will help them re-evaluate the healthy, green, leafy intruder on their plate!

They are slow to grow but potatoes come with the fun of many stages of growth, from chitting to earthing up. They can also be grown in bags where space is at a premium. Read our guide to growing potatoes for step-by-step instructions. Potatoes are generally chitted in late winter to early spring, however if you wanted to grow your own potatoes for your Christmas dinner, seed potatoes are available in garden centres in July. 

French beans, runner beans and broad beans are great choices to grow with children, see if they have any ideas how they can help with the gardening. These climbers need support as they grow, which leads to another fun project; constructing a wigwam. Simply place three to four bamboo canes into the ground and tie them together at the top. Sow the seeds around the base of each cane, although you will only need a single seed at the base of each cane for any climbing runner and French beans.

Onions are incredibly easy to grow, as well as being the staple in many recipes. Sow in spring and harvest in autumn. Follow our guide to growing and harvesting onions for details.

Anyone who has ever eaten a tomato fresh off the vine will understand the enormous taste difference between fresh produce and that has been chilled and stored. Tomatoes can be grown in a greenhouse and they can also be planted outdoors in tomato grow bags or even in hanging baskets, so do not let a lack of greenhouse put you off.

For recipe inspiration, view our recipe collection created by our Hillier Development Chef.

There are many more wonderful ways the garden can inspire children. You can find many books, either with more ideas for projects or inspired by the garden. In Hillier Garden Centres, for example, look for What’s in the Garden nature colouring book, We Are a Garden by Louise Greig to help identify animals and plants or, for very little ones, Carry Me 123 Rainbow Garden.

child playing whilst gardening
Child playing in the autumnal leaves

Useful Items for Gardening with Children

  • Plants for a sensory garden (in particular, herbs, lavender, roses, fruit and veg, nasturtiums)
  • Fast-growing seeds: sunflowers, marigolds, cress, mustard, radishes and sweet peas
  • Children’s gardening tools: gloves, spade, trowel, watering can and a small wheelbarrow
  • Compost (for planting containers or creating beds and borders)
  • Pots and seasonal plants (for container gardening)
  • Bird feeder / window feeder
  • Bee bar / house
  • Vegetable seeds – lettuce, French beans, runner beans, onions and tomatoes

Why is Having Gardening Ideas Good for Children?

Gardening not only is a great physical activity to get your children outdoors but it can also have a great impact for future skills.

  • Growing their own vegetables will actively encourage them to eat more! If they have been part of the process, eating their greens becomes the reward.
  • Gardening for children helps them to focus their attention. Planting and growing a plant teaches valuable lessons in commitment, dedication and results.
  • There is a level of responsibility and care. Ensuring that a plant survives and is given what it needs, children will learn about how to care for a living thing.
  • Gardening is a great educational activity. School curriculums often cover the lifecycle of a plant and what’s better than your children being a step ahead?
  • There is an increase in terms of motor skill development with gardening. This can then lead to an increased ability for everyday tasks like writing and crafts.
  • A big advantage with gardening for children is the patience it teaches them. If your child plants a seed and nurtures it to a flower it will show them that patience pays off.