With school out and maybe grandkids descending on you, perhaps you are looking for a cheap and novel way to entertain them. What better thing to do than get them involved in a little gardening!

A little forward planning might be necessary, but gardens can be a great place to cultivate a fun learning experience for children. What kid doesn’t like to ‘get down and dirty’ so to speak, and gardening might offer children an opportunity to learn the life cycle process by which plants are grown, as well as responsibility, caretaking and environmental awareness.

If you haven’t got a garden, a planter on a balcony can work just as well. There are lots of opportunities for a hands-on learning experience outside, or even indoors.

Here are some ideas to get kids out in the garden and away from the screens and enjoying something a bit different.

Pick a Plot

To ensure a successful gardening experience with your child, start small, and let them have options for likely areas that will be totally theirs - the best way to kill any interest in gardening is to make it seem overwhelming, and a sandbox-sized plot is perfect for them.

Give them their own sturdy, child-sized tools, and expect them to get wet and dirty, and if the children are small, expect them to be diverted into mud-pies or just hole digging!

A 3×3 area is a great starting point. In this area, they can decide what will be grown - with a little guidance - and have room to experiment without impacting on any other plants in your garden.

If the kids are only visiting, you can keep their interest going by sending photos throughout the year of the progress their plants are making.

Set them up for success by making small, raised beds that are easy for them to reach into, accompany them to collect rocks or stones to define edges, and use stepping stones or mulch so they know what is garden and what is not.

Indoor Projects

A few hours inside making plant tags, using pictures for non-readers, is another project for when it is too hot outside.

Another inside activity is using a seed propagator to start growing tomatoes. You can buy easy kits or make your own with recycled plastic food cartons, and give them everything they need to grow delicious fruit from seeds on the windowsill or balcony.

Making a fun area such as a tepee or small enclosure and covering it with flowers, vines, or climbing beans can be a fun and special area for children to enjoy.

The number one tip to remember when implementing a kid-friendly garden is to keep it fun. When instructing, keep the advice light, entertaining and easy to understand.

When selecting plants to grow with children, it is important to incorporate plants that the children will enjoy growing most. Children enjoy plants that have strong smells, grow quickly, and are easily recognizable.

In most cases, selecting plants that have larger seeds are easier for small hands to handle. Sunflowers, peas, pumpkins, and squash plants all meet these criteria.

Plants that can be snacked on are also fun for children. As the food grows, it can be easily picked, such as lettuce, radishes, cherry tomatoes, even strawberries, which is great for children who tend to have short attention spans.

Carrots and pumpkins are also fun plants for children to grow because they are easily recognizable.

Children will enjoy unique sensory plants, so planting crops that range in textures from fuzzy, rubbery, prickly, and smooth can be very fun for children to experiment with.

Gardening Projects for Kids

Plants that represent the colours of the rainbow are great teaching tools that might be fun for children to plant.

Another enjoyable garden activity for children is to create a pizza garden. Organize crops in a circle and assign different wedges to represent different ingredients of a pizza. In each wedge, plant crops that can be found on a real pizza such as tomatoes, onions, peppers, and garlic, with maybe marigolds or sunflowers to represent cheese!


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan