Gardening with Kids: A Guide to Backyard Tasks for Every Age

Everybody can get in on the backyard fun with our seasonal guide to kids garden chores. From spring planting to fall tending, there's a job for everyone!

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As a family, there’s no better way to spend time than gardening outside. Teaching your kids to garden with you will give you a shared interest—and plenty of quality time together in the sunshine. The little ones love playing in the dirt, and older kids can help plan what to plant and healthy recipes to try. According to a study reported by PBS Kids, children who garden with their caregivers score higher on science achievement than those who don’t.

The only downside to gardening? It can be a lot of work. Fortunately, you’ve got some eager helpers ready to jump in!

Whether you have little ones toddling around the backyard or teens feeling somewhat hesitant to set down their phones, gardening is a fun family activity for all ages. So grab your favorite little humans and some kids’ gardening gear; it’s time to go outside!

Chart on how kids can help in the gardenClaire Krieger/Taste of Home

Ages 3-5: Pint-Size Helpers

At this age, children are ecstatic at the chance to dig in the dirt and grab a hose. Your little one may have learned about plants and gardening in preschool or kindergarten, so encourage their curiosity by reading a children’s gardening book together or watching a video. Younger children have a lot of enthusiasm but will also require a lot of supervision. Try giving your child one simple task at a time, such as pulling weeds or using their own small watering can. Here’s how to get kids excited about birding.

Here are some ideas to get started:

  • Pull weeds in and around the garden
  • Help water the seedlings (make sure they don’t go overboard)
  • Remove sticks and dead branches to tidy the garden
  • Pick ripe produce and wash it in the house
  • Snack on herbs like basil and other edible landscape plants

Ages 5-7: Grade-School Green Thumbs

This is the age where many children start craving more control over their time and activities. Include your school-age child by asking what herbs, veggies or flowers they would like to plant. By now, hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills are more developed, so your child will be able to take on a more active role in preparing and tending to the garden. Invite your children out to the garden with you and talk through each task as you perform it so that they can take on more of the work next time.

Here’s a list of chores to try:

  • Choose which seeds to plant (here’s the best places to buy plants and seeds online)
  • Rake and prepare the soil for planting
  • Protect the garden by picking bugs like grubs and beetles off of plants (most will be thrilled with this chore)
  • Choose new recipes (they may be more willing to try some new healthy dinners for kids now that they’ve helped grow the ingredients)

Ages 8-12: Budding Botanists

At this point, preteens want more independence and are ready to take on a much more active role in the garden. Give your child some resources or let them search online when planning the garden. Ask them to choose which plants they’d like to grow (such as plants that attract butterflies) and draw out a blueprint of where each type of seed should be planted. Kids this age are used to taking on complicated school projects, so they will enjoy the challenge and chance to show off their skills.

Get them started with some of these ideas:

  • Plan the garden
  • Water the plants and tend the garden
  • Clean out the garden in the fall
  • Transfer indoor potted plants to the garden (here’s how to start seeds indoors)

Ages 13 & Up: Young Gardeners

Teens will be ready to take on the challenge of being responsible for the garden and the heavier outdoor chores. Give them a safety tutorial (and a few reminders) when using gardening shears and the lawnmower. Your teen may want to take on extra gardening tasks to earn more allowance.

Here are some skills they’ll be able to handle:

  • Choose or help to build a garden bed
  • Make compost (hey, you’re giving them a phone, right?—they can do this for you)
  • Cover the exposed soil with mulch to prevent erosion and retain moisture
  • Prune plants and hedges with shears
  • Mow the lawn
  • Cook from the garden (ask your teen to plan some quick garden recipes for the week and see what they come up with)

If you have a budding master gardener on your hands, give your teen their own plot or raised bed to manage. They’ll enjoy having full control over their own space—and may even surprise you with their green thumb skills.

Next up: Discover our favorite easy-to-grow veggies.

Originally Published on Taste of Home

Carrie Madormo, RN
Now a freelance health and food writer, Carrie worked as a nurse for over a decade. When she isn't hunched over her laptop with a baby in hand, you will find her cooking her grandmother’s recipes, lacing up her running shoes or sipping coffee in the bathroom to hide from her three young children.