One of the best things about gardening with children is that it creates an interest that runs deeper than what plants look, smell or taste like. When a child plants a seed and watches it grow they become attached to it. They learn, that aside from light, water and earth, plants also need care, attention and protection in order to grow.
With vegetables, when it comes to harvest time, to give a child the responsibility of picking their own food can fill them with confidence and a sense of inclusion and helpfulness. In my experience, the vegetables don’t always make it to the kitchen, let alone the cooker, as my little ones are often too eager to eat them NOW!
With flowers, if they are to be picked, you may well find that children apply great care and seriousness in choosing exactly which flower to include in their bloom.
Some plants are better to grow with children than others, for various reasons, so here are a few of my recommendations, and why they are suitable:
This may seem like an obvious choice as we often see sunflowers growing where there are children around! Sun flowers can be enormous, and children love watching them grow and grow. As you may have seen in my article, Fun at the allotment I am planning on growing sunflowers this year and having a family competition to see whose grows the tallest. If you don’t have a garden or allotment then not to worry, sunflowers can also be grown indoors but they wont reach the great height as an outdoor variety!
This is one of my favourite plants to grow, it produces amazing yields and is ready in time for halloween so children get really excited about them. Pumpkins need a lot of space as the plants are trailing, with large leaves and potentially enormous fruit. The best thing about pumpkin is their variety of uses; the flesh can be eaten as a range of either sweet or savoury dishes, the seeds can be harvested and eaten as I explain in my article [here], and of course Halloween! If you are concerned about food waste, or haven’t had a great yield, you can always paint the pumpkin instead of carving it, though children may be a bit disappointed by this method!
A childhood favourite and if not, then growing this little beauty can persuade even the most pea hating children. When my step son was about 5 he hated peas, and always had, until one day he helped my dad pick peas in the garden. The excitement of picking them, popping the pods and eating the peas straight from the plant seemed to out weigh any previous dislike of the vegetable. Long may it last!
These colourful fruits are so tasty and children adore them. They are fun to pick and can be eaten straight off the plant so there is no need for patience with this one! If you don’t have much space, strawberries can be grown in containers. You can buy special strawberry planters or they do very well in hanging baskets, which also adds a bit of fun to picking them.
Lavender is a simple herb that looks beautiful and produces lovely smelling, purple flowers. Bees and butterflies lavender so this is a good one for wildlife lovers. The flowers can be picked to display in water, or can be dried to make into a little scented pillow. For the more adventurous of you, you may also like to have a go at making lavender oil! Watch out for my article on how to do this later in the year.
These little vegetables are perfect for growing with children as they can be ready to eat within 25 days of planting. They are small so do not need a lot of space to grow, don’t require huge amounts of care and attention and can easily be grown in a container. Due to their small size, children can pull them out of the ground themselves and love seeing the bright colours of the radishes when they come out. Radishes can be a little spicy so fry or roast them with some butter to soften their sharp taste and make them more child friendly.
- Sweet peas
These beautiful scented flowers provide such sensory stimulation that any child will love them. They come in all different colours and have a wonderful scent so make the perfect little bloom for your kitchen table. The great thing about sweet peas is that if you continue to pick the flowers, the plants continue to produce them, meaning the plants can go on for months. As you may have seen in my article, Fun at the Allotment, I am planning to make a sweet pea tepee at my allotment this year so keep your eye out for photos!
There are, of course, lots of other plants that children will enjoy growing, these are just a few of my favourites. What experience have you had of growing plants with your little ones? Do you have any favourites?