Container gardens are ideal for children. They're a good way for eager young minds to learn about where food comes from, how it comes into being, and just how good home-grown can taste. Kids are also more likely to eat their veg if they've put the time and effort into growing it!
The Best Container Plants for Children
Salad cress grows with very little effort in pretty much any size of container. (I remember growing it in yoghurt pots when I was in primary school.) Why not decorate a container to look like a person's head, complete with googly eyes and a big, bright, lipstick mouth added on, plant cress seeds, and give your kids the fun of watching their “person” grow hair? (There's nothing wrong with green hair... some of the nicest people I know have green hair...)
Strawberries are somewhat more demanding than salad cress but they are always a favourite with young gardeners. If you have more than one child, why not add a little light-hearted sibling rivalry? Let each child choose their own container, and plant and care for their own strawberry, and see who gets the biggest crop?
If your children prefer flowers over fruit, heathers are a good option. They are generally tough enough to survive the occasional neglect of young, easily-distracted people forgetting to water them because it's a bright, warm day, and there's playing to be done!
How – and When – Should I Introduce My Children to Container Gardening?
It's never too early!
If you are already into container gardening yourself, take your children with you while you tend your plants whatever age they are. Growing up around plants, like growing up around animals, makes for happier and healthier babies, children, and adults.
If you don't have a container garden yourself but would like your children to experience growing their own food or flowers, then around four or five is a good age to start. That's when children can start to follow instructions and manage to carry a small bottle or jug of water on their own.
Before buying containers and plants, sit down with your kids and have a look at books, websites, and YouTube videos about container gardening. Look for material aimed at children. Talk about what sort of plants they want to grow, prepare them for the possibility that the plants might not make it. (This happens to plenty of adult gardeners, too, and is frustrating and upsetting whether you're six, sixteen, or sixty!)
Let your kids choose their own plants. With younger children, it is best if an adult picks a selection of three or four containers that would be suitable for the chosen plants and then ask them to pick a favorite. For older children, let them choose their own container once they've been reminded of what they need to look for to suitably house the plants they've chosen.
Make checking on, and caring for, their plant part of their routine just like tidying their bedroom or taking a bath.
With fruit or vegetable plants – let your kids be the first to taste the fruits of their labours. It's often a very good way to get children to see healthy food as fun food.
The first plants I ever grew for myself as an eight year old in my parents' garden were strawberries. Over twenty years later, I can still remember the feeling of eating the very first strawberry to come from a plant that I'd grown all by myself.