8 Themed Children's Gardens that Teach Kids How to Grow Food & Revel in Nature
by Catherine Winter
Did you ever read the book The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett? In it, the protagonist (Mary) asks her guardian if she could please have a bit of earth to make a garden: “To plant seeds in–to make things grow–to see them come alive." Many children take great delight in gardening, and have even more fun doing so when there's a special patch of earth that's all their own to do with what they like. Since there are so many different plants to choose from, themed gardens can be a great idea for keeping kids engaged and enthusiastic about their space, while still giving them the autonomy to choose what would work best within those themes. Read on for 8 awesome themed gardens, and get started reveling in what you can grow with your kids in nature today!
1. The Healthy Snack Patch
One of my friends was an incredibly picky eater as a child, and one night, when she refused to eat what was being served for supper, her mum told her that if she didn’t like it she could go out into the backyard and eat what was out there instead. Well, that had a rather different result than her mother had expected, as she ran out the door with a face-splitting grin and spent the next hour grazing on bits from the garden.
While that kind of response isn’t recommended, it is fun to send the kids out to gather healthy snacksfrom their own patch of garden space. There’s nothing quite like the taste of a freshly-picked tomato that’s been warming in the sun all day, and a carrot pulled from the earth just needs to be wiped down a bit before crunching into it.
- Cherry or grape tomatoes
- Mini cucumbers
- Snow peas
- Sugar snap peas
As a side thought, a bean teepee isn’t just an ideal way to grow kid-friendly edibles in a small space—it’s a perfect spot for littles to curl up in.
There are few things as delicious as ripe berries plucked right from the garden after they’ve been ripening in the sun all day, and there are berry varieties to suit any garden space and climate zone. From the standard blueberries and strawberries to haskap, gooseberries, mulberries, and currants, these bite-sized wonders come in just about every color and flavor imaginable. Your kids can eat them raw, add them to granola, smoothies, or popsicles, or bake them into crescent rolls or pies.
In addition to being perfect sources for snacks, berry bushes are mostly perennial, so they’ll just get bigger, stronger, and more prolific over time.
3. Edible Flowers
Flower-loving little ones are often delighted to find out that there are many blossoms they can eat, andedible flowers can be enjoyed any number of different ways. Nasturtium and marigold petals have a lovely spiciness that’s great when they’re added to salads, while violets and pansies are delicious when sugared lightly and used to garnish cupcakes or cookies. Sunflower heads can be steamed and eaten like artichokes while they’re still green, and if you let them go to seed, those seeds can be harvested in late summer/early autumn for protein-rich snacks.
Flowers with edible petals:
*Note: Even though you probably don’t want to add any dandelions to your yard intentionally, their bright yellow heads are delicious when battered and fried like fritters.
4. Pizza Topping Garden
Some of the tastiest pizza toppings can be grown in the garden, and kids are often eager to try foods that they’ve helped to prepare. Pizza tends to be a favorite food on just about everyone’s list, so why not encourage the kidlets to grow some of the best ingredients themselves?
- Tomatoes of all sizes (try heirloom varieties for colors like yellow, orange, striped green, or purple)
- Sweet Peppers
- Mushrooms (Either from spores inoculated into a fallen hardwood log, or via one of those“grow your own” kits: it’s best to avoid picking mushrooms in the wild, as so many are poisonous.)