Go green this summer. And take your kid with you. In just a few weeks, you’ll see blooms and veggies that will make you both proud.
1. Plant this: Herbs (including parsley, chives, oregano, thyme, and rosemary)
Where: Indoors, in pots, on a bright, sunny windowsill
With your: Two- to three-year-old
When: All year long—which is great because you can plant these herbs when your child is motivated and interested
Total time: Less than an hour to plant, then water as needed
Good for: Sequencing, fine motor skills development, counting practice (seeds, pots, rocks, and so forth)
You’ll need: Potting mix, a small trowel, a watering can, small pots or a window box (with holes on bottom), and seeds (give your child some options)
What to do: Line the base of the container with stones (for drainage). Add about one-half inch of potting mix; smooth out top. Fill the container with one-half inch of potting mix; smooth out soil. Let your assistant gardener sprinkle seeds into the container and cover lightly with potting mix as indicated on package instructions.
What to do next: Help your child place the plant(s) near a light source and water herbs as directed. It’s a great way to boost interest in life cycles.
Hot tip: Container size matters. But don’t overwhelm your little one with those details. Instead, use words like wet, dry, big, small, tall, short, etc.—totally relevant vocabulary builders.
Bonus move: Slip in a confidence booster. Each time you use your homegrown herbs in a recipe, remind your child that her hard work made it possible!
2. Plant this: Flowers, such as marigolds (super easy to grow) and impatiens (also easy!)
Where: Outdoors, in pots
With your: Three- to four-year-old
When: Spring or summer
Total time: About an hour to plant, depending on the number of plants, and minutes to water on a regular schedule
Good for: Following multi-step directions, fine motor skills, color recognition, decision making (“Should we plant small marigolds or large ones?”)
You’ll need: An old pot, a tin pail, a bucket, or tub (all with holes for drainage); soil; seeds; fertilizer; watering can
What to do: Let your child help fill the pot with soil, fertilizer, and seeds, and then water as directed for container gardening.
What to do next: Marigolds thrive in full sun and hot weather, so enjoy them on a porch or patio all summer. Bring some of your mature blooms indoors and make a floral arrangement.
Hot tip: Water marigolds at base of the plant—not directly on top of the blooms.
What kids gain: Patience; a sense of responsibility; a chance to see cause and effect in action, as in “Hey, I watered the plant and it grew taller!”
Bonus move: Bring the best blooms indoors. Strip off foliage, hang plant upside down to dry out, and help your child create an even longer-lasting floral arrangement.
3. Plant this: Baby carrots
Where: Stone-free soil outdoors
With your: Five- to six-year-old
When: Best during the cooler end of the growing season, spring through fall. (Find your local frost dates here.)
Total time: Each planting session could last around an hour.
Good for: Fine and gross motor skills,planning,sorting, counting, hand-eye coordination, grouping (by color and purpose)
You’ll need: A shovel, hoe, watering can, seeds, gardening gloves, and preferably loose, sandy soil
What to do: Sow, mulch, and water according to package directions.
What to do next: Water once a week; weed regularly.
Hot tip: Carrots grow from seeds and mature in two to four months, depending on the variety.
What kids gain: An understanding of follow-through and commitment, an edge in science-related topics, environmental awareness, and an appreciation for nature
Bonus move: Go bigger and better. Invite your elementary-school child to help you plan next year’s outdoor garden. Include beets, more carrots, tomatoes, peas, and radishes.