Although most of us today no longer rely on the work of our own hands in the dirt to produce most of the food we eat (thanks to grocery stores), there is something about gardening that remains satisfying and enjoyable. There seems to be an almost-primal need in us to dig in the dirt and interact with growing plants. We see this most clearly in children. From a young age, most children love to play in the dirt, watch things grow, or pour water. No one has to teach them to do it; they just seem to naturally enjoy it. This is one reason why gardening and children make a great combination. With their innate interest in nature and little bodies full of energy, children often take to gardening quite eagerly. It can be a perfect activity to enjoy with your children on those long summer days.

Benefits of Gardening for Children

Although many adults find gardening enjoyable, it might not be as easy to see how gardening can benefit children as well. With the dominance of digital technology and entertainment in many children’s lives, some children are not exposed to gardening as much as in previous generations. Once they are introduced to gardening, however, the benefits of it for their well-being are clear.

Cognitive Benefits

If you’ve ever begun a garden, you know that this hobby requires quite a bit of learning. Children who participate in gardening inherently learn a lot about nature, the growing process, different types of plants, life cycles, and more. Moreover, this learning is enhanced because it is not simple rote memorization but hands-on learning. Gardening provides a unique “testing ground” for children to not only learn about all these processes but also see them play out right in front of them.

Perhaps surprisingly, gardening also taps into children’s literacy skills. Children can enhance their reading skills by reading gardening catalogs, seed packets, instructions, and making labels for new plants.1 While simple, these activities can further reinforce children’s reading skills.

At its most basic level, gardening also involves exposing children to concepts like conservation and cause-and-effect. As we work in the garden with our children, they come to understand the value of conserving natural resources, especially water. They have an up-close and personal view of the cycle of life and the need to use our resources wisely. Furthermore, gardening can provide them an opportunity to test out different cause-and-effect scenarios. For example, what happens if we plant crops too close together, use too much water, or fail to remove weeds? These are all perfect examples of real-life consequences of different choices.

Physical Benefits

Gardening can be a great form of exercise for both you and your children. Through gardening, children can strengthen their gross motor skills, balance, and coordination.2 Perhaps the best part about gardening as a type of exercise is that children may be so engaged in the activity that they don’t really realize they are getting a good workout. Being in natural light can also be a good way for children to absorb vitamin D, which is sometimes lacking in children who live in colder climates or stay indoors much of the time.3

Reaping nature’s reward for all your gardening work is perhaps the best benefit of gardening. If you and your children choose to grow vegetables or fruits, the tasty harvest can be very rewarding. Children often take great delight in eating the fruits of their labor from the garden. Research shows that children who participate in gardening are more likely to choose healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables.4 The lifelong habit of healthy eating may begin in your own garden.

Mental Benefits

The less obvious benefits of gardening with children have to do with feeding their spirits rather than their bodies. It turns out that gardening is a wonderful way to reduce stress, even among children.4 Even for children who struggle with mental health issues like anxiety, gardening can be a therapeutic activity to help enhance their mood.2 Whether it’s being in nature, working with your hands, physical activity, or some combination of all these factors, it seems gardening benefits children’s mental well-being. 

Those less tangible skills we all want to foster in our children, such as patience and the ability to delay gratification, may also be enhanced through gardening. By design, a gardener cannot be impatient. It takes time and consistent care to maintain a plant over weeks or months until it blooms or produces fruits or vegetables. Through this mainstaking process, children naturally learn the value of patience.2

Getting Started Gardening with Children

Getting started gardening with children doesn’t have to be complicated. Most children jump at the chance to engage in an activity they see adults doing, especially one that involves the outdoors and interesting tools. Here are a few tips to consider when starting to garden with children:

  • Encourage Engagement: Involving children in all aspects of the gardening process can help invite their active participation. Encourage them to help you pick out seeds or plants, choose tools, and plan out the arrangement of the garden. You could even set aside one plot or one pot as their responsibility as a gardener.
  • Choose Plants Carefully: In order to maximize children’s involvement in the garden, consider choosing plants that grow well in your area and that grow quickly. Also consider plants that have visual appeal or a variety of colors that children might enjoy. In terms of vegetables, consider plants that your child likes to eat (and maybe a few new ones).
  • Tools: The tools used in gardening can be especially fun and interesting to children. To encourage your children to help with gardening labor, consider choosing child-size tools and gloves for them. This makes their work more effective and fun.
  • Real Tasks: Children often prefer doing real tasks as opposed to pretend ones.5 This can apply to gardening as well. Allow them (as best you can) to really participate in the work of the garden—planting, weeding, watering, and harvesting. This way, they get a real sense of the complete process and can feel proud of their accomplishment.

Planting Seeds for the Future

Gardening, even among children, helps us get in touch with our basic instinct to be part of nature and produce a harvest from the land. For children, gardening provides a perfect opportunity to expand their knowledge of the natural world, be active, and connect with you through an enjoyable activity. Encouraging children to garden with you can be the beginning of a love of nature and the bounty it holds. 

The information provided on this site is NOT medical advice and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, provide medical or behavioral advice, treat, prevent, or cure any disease, condition, or behavior. You should consult with a qualified healthcare professional regarding your child’s development to make a medical diagnosis, determine a treatment for a medical condition, or obtain other related advice.


  1. Butcher, K., and Pletcher, J. (2017) Gardening with young children helps their development. Michigan State University Extension, 
  2. UC Master Gardeners (2021) Children in the Garden. Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California, 
  3. Kubala, J. (2022)  Vitamin D Deficiency in Kids: Signs, Symptoms, and More. Healthline, 
  4. Flavin,B. (2016) Gardening for Kids: 7 Reasons Planting Seeds Enriches Their Lives. Rasmussen University, 
  5. Lillard, A. & Taggart, J.. (2018). Children Prefer the Real Thing to Pretending. The Science Breaker, 

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