A child-friendly garden makes an ideal stay-at-home summer family project. Activities for kids should be tailored so they are age and experience appropriate. Gardening activities will naturally span several weeks, so try to have something different for kids to do as their plants grow and mature. Select fast growing plants to hold their interest.
Size and Color Extremes
Children are impressed with size and color extremes in the garden. They like very large flowers, and small, easy to pick food items.
Zinnias and dahlias produce large, brightly colored flowers. Sunflowers are also favorites, but a 10 foot tall plant may be intimidating to small children. New sunflower varieties are shorter, and they come in different red and yellow color combinations. Sunflowers offer an added bonus of attracting birds when the seedheads mature in late summer.
Cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes are just the right size for children to pick and eat. Other small foods children can help plant and pick are peas and strawberries. Try planting beans that grow purple on the plant, and turn green when they are cooked.
Use vines to cover trellis walls to create a simple A-frame hideaway for children. Erect a framework trellis, and let the kids plant pole beans, morning glories, or other fast growing vines along the base. As the vines cover the trellis, the area beneath is a shady place for kids to hide out.
Take the idea a step further, and make a long row of trellised plants into a tunnel for kids to play under.
Make a simple flower press. Cut pieces of a corrugated cardboard box and layer paper towel, flat types of flowers, such as daisies or individual geranium florets, more paper towel, then another layer of cardboard. Keep layering until there are five or six sets of layers. Tie the stack together, or use large rubber bands to hold them securely. Place heavy books on top of the stack for weight. In three or four days, the flowers should be flat and dry, and ready to use in craft projects.
Buy snapdragons to transplant into the garden. Allow kids to have fun picking the individual flowers and making them "talk." To make the flowers talk, or snap, squeeze the back of the flower/dragon like a puppet, and the dragon's mouth opens and closes.
Sensitive fern (mimosa pudica) responds to touch by closing its leaves. Normally, the fernlike foliage has lacy flat leaves. But when touched lightly, the fronds fold inward, then reopen a few minutes later.
Money plants (Lunaria) have flat, round seed pods that resemble coins. Small children have fun picking "money" from the plants.
Easy Bird Bath
Kids can make an easy birdbath. Simply stack two clay flowerpots, 8 or 10 inches in diameter, upside down. Top them with a right side up clay flowerpot saucer. Keep the saucer filled with clean water, and the birds will come. The size is small enough, so even young children can help clean and fill the saucer.