How Plants for Kids Teach Them about the Environment

By Sher Warkentin in Thinking Sustainably

Planting a fruit and vegetable garden is not only a great way to ensure you have plenty of fresh produce; it also provides an excellent, hands-on learning opportunity for the youngest in your family. You can garden with plants for kids to create lessons on healthy habits and sustainability while reaping all the tasty benefits once the items grow in.

Kids’ Choice

My six-year-old has always been a picky eater. I’m not too worried about it—I was a picky eater myself and now enjoy a pretty wide palate of foods. I do, however, give her plenty of opportunities to try new things, and planting a garden together has been a great way to broaden her interests. There’s just something special about planting a vegetable, tending to it, watching it grow, and finally plucking it from the garden that makes the experience different from buying peppers at the store.

Child holding a packet of seeds

Your biggest goal in gardening with kids to encourage healthy eating should be giving your child plenty of control over the process. Kids feel empowered when they get to make their own choices, even with something as simple as picking carrots over zucchini seeds. As you begin planning your garden, ask your child what fruits and vegetables they’d like to plant and let everyone in the family pick just one to start. Browsing a seed catalog or the seed section of your local nursery is a great way to find plants for kids and help then envision what their future crops will look like before deciding.

Why Waste Matters

Teaching kids about waste can be a difficult subject to tackle. It’s easy to tell your child you shouldn’t waste food, but creating the food themselves can help them understand why it’s so important to save it. Growing food from seeds is a long process, especially for young kids who don’t have much patience. After taking weeks to plant and grow tomatoes, it can be easier to explain to your little one why it would be so wasteful to toss a leftover that they worked so hard to grow.

This can also be a great way to teach kids about sharing with others. Rather than letting a bountiful crop spoil because you’re unable to finish it all, suggest sharing some with your neighbors and friends. Or, ask your kids for their thoughts and see what ideas they come up with!

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Learning how plants grow can teach a lot about sustainability and the importance of caring for the environment. Last weekend, we began planning our summer garden by first planting flowers that will attract pollinators, like bees and butterflies. It was the perfect way to talk to my daughter about how the ecosystem relies on even the tiniest creatures to thrive and why it’s in our interest to protect them.

As we planted milkweed seeds I had received from the Save Our Monarchs Foundation, I explained that the flowers would help feed the endangered monarch butterflies. Then, the butterflies could in turn help our garden grow. Use your garden planning not only as a way to talk about what’s healthy to eat, but also what you can do to keep the rest of your neighborhood healthy and vibrant.

Responsibility Is Key

Maintaining a thriving garden requires more than just planting some seeds. The upkeep of watering, weeding, and harvesting can help teach your child about responsibility. One of the best ways to encourage your child to embrace that responsibility is, you guessed it, through ownership.

Girl watering plants

Let your child take the lead and he or she will be more interested in the garden’s outcome. Put them in charge of remembering to water the plants, for example. Another fun way to encourage taking responsibility is by giving your kids their own set of gardening tools, like gloves and shovels in their favorite color.

Growing plants for kids offers so many opportunities for learning, but most importantly, it’s a great way to spend time with your little ones so they can come to enjoy the outdoors. Learning more about the food on their planet is just a great bonus.

How do you teach your kids about gardening? Tweet @TomsofMaine your best tips!

Image source: Sher Warkentin

This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.

Why It’s Good

Gardening with kids is not only fun; it's also a great way to encourage healthy eating and give lessons about the environment. Having a hands-on, sensory experience helps illustrate big ideas like sustainability and responsibility in a way that's easier for young kids to appreciate.