Jessiah, a kindergartner, and his mom, Sakeeya, plant cabbage seeds during a Hudson Valley Seed "garden time" program in his classroom. The seeds were planted in pots made of toilet paper tubes, and later transplated to their school garden.
There is so much for children and youth to learn in a
garden! When a child plants a kale seed, waters it,
observes the plant’s growth,
notices bugs that interact with the plant, learns what the plant needs,
harvests the leaves and, finally bakes them into kale chips, that child
naturally learns through the experience.
Without even realizing they are learning, in a garden
kids can enjoy applying hands-on math skills, doing scientific investigations,
writing, reading, and , exploring and developing critical thinking and problem
solving skills. Also, kids who garden tend to eat healthier.
Hudson Valley Seed’s research shows
that when students have the opportunity to directly engage with a new
vegetable, they are going to try it and are more likely to enjoy it.
[Read more: It’s raining, it’s pouring –make a rain garden!]
Are you interested in engaging your child in
gardening? Here are suggestions for doing just that. These activities can be
adapted for every age. (If you don’t have a garden, many of the following
activities can also be done in a forest or yard.)
Working in the garden:
N’ Read: one person reads to another who is weeding and then switch
Alphabet Game: choose
a category and take turns stating something that belongs in that category,
going through the alphabet. Each person does a different letter. For example,
if the category is types of food you might say apple for a,
and the next person might say blueberry, and so on.
an example of each part of a plant: root, stem, leaf, flower, seeds, fruit
(anything with seeds inside).
pictures in seed catalogs to something found in the garden.
all the colors of the rainbow.
things in garden for kids to find. Use descriptive language and garden
vocabulary to guide their search.
kids seeds and challenge them to find the corresponding plant.
Worms and Insects
a compost pile and/or place in the garden just for soil exploration where kids
can dig and discover the soil ecosystem. Any covered area of ground will
attract all kinds of soil critters, especially worms, sow bugs/roly-polies, and
flowers that attract butterflies.
native bee houses.
• Capture caterpillars and
provide them with plenty of food (the specific leaves you find them on) and
watch them create a chrysalis. Be sure to let them go once they have
a bug identification guide.
kids create and work in garden journals. They love to sit and draw what they
see in the garden. If creative writing interests your child help them to write
charts to track growth and plan harvests.
sensory experiences of the garden: go on a “smell safari,” give
a blindfolded guided tour, take moments of silence to focus on listening, plant
herbs to taste and smell.
garden-related art projects. There are so many options for this! Check out Pinterest (and
various other websites and books) for tons of ideas to make garden adornments,
tools, and creative works of art.
Camera Game: One person pretends to be a camera while the other is a
“camera” closes her/his eyes and is led through the garden until a “photo op”
is chosen. Arrange the “camera” (manipulate body and instruct to squat or lie
down or stand on toes, etc.) and then have the camera open his/her eyes to see
new and different angles of vision i.e. lying on the ground looking up, extreme
close-ups with a magnifier.
a dish that features all plant parts (using as much harvested from your own
garden as possible). For example: a salad of spinach (leaves), celery or
asparagus (stems), carrots (roots), cucumber or tomato (fruits, because they
have seeds inside), beans or peas or corn (seeds), and broccoli or edible
a recipe book: each page can include a kid’s drawing of the crop featured in
along with other information like nutrition and fun facts.
Nicole Porto is an educator and outreach coordinator with Hudson Valley Seed. Hudson Valley Seed is a non-profit organization that educates students in various academic subjects through school gardens. Their weekly lessons focus on healthy eating, and curriculum-integrated science, math, and literacy. They currently work in 7 school gardens located in 3 counties that serve over 1,500 students.
Chop Chop: The Fun Cooking Magazine for Families
"The Reason for a Flower"? by Ruth Heller
"An Earthworm’s Life?" by John Himmelman
"What Do Roots Do??" by Kathleen V. Kudlinski
"A Seed is Sleepy?" by Dianna Aston
"From Seed to Plant?" by Gail Gibbons
"A Fruit is a Suitcase for Seeds?" by Jean Richards
"How a Seed Grows?" by Helene J. Jordan
"Compost Stew" by Mary McKenna Siddals
"Gardening Lab for Kids: 52 Fun Experiments to Learn,
Grow, Harvest, Make, Play, and Enjoy Your Garden" by Renata Fossen Brown
"Garden to Table: A Kid’s Guide to Planting, Growing, and
Preparing Food?" by Katherine Hengel
"Good Bug Bad Bug" by Jessica Walliser