Involving kids in gardening projects is a great way to teach them how food grows and where it comes from. Children who balk at eating their vegetables might be more interested in eating something they've grown themselves. When you choose seeds for your kids to grow, consider seeds that germinate quickly and yield results that are either beautiful, or tasty--or both.
Sunflowers have big, cheery blooms that brighten any garden. They don't need to be pre-germinated indoors and they come up within a week. Once they get going, their daily growth is noticeable and depending on the variety, they can reach heights of 8 feet or more. You can make a sunflower house for kids by planting the seeds in a square. When the plants are about 2 feet tall, bend the tops and tie them together in the middle. Kids can also collect the seeds from bloomed sunflowers that have been left to dry in the sun, either for roasting or planting the next season.
Nasturtiums are a bright, edible flower that's easy to grow. The seeds are about the size of a pea, which makes them easy for small children to handle. They don't require a lot of care and are relatively pest-resistant, giving them a greater chance of success. Nasturtiums come up within 2 weeks and have red, yellow, orange, or variegated flowers after 6 weeks. Like sunflowers, they really take off and spread in the summer's heat. Kids will have fun eating the flowers right off the plants or putting them into salads, and once the flowers have bloomed and dried on the plant, seeds are easy to collect for next year.
Radishes are a fun crop for kids to grow because they'll see immediate results. They usually come up in less than a week and are ready to harvest in less than a month. Radishes are usually a bit too pungent for most kids, but radishes straight from the ground are much sweeter and milder. Radishes planted in early spring when the weather is cool aren't spicy, especially if you harvest them when they're about an inch in diameter. Take a bucket of water out with you to harvest so you can wash the radishes and eat them right away.
Snow peas and snap peas are another crop kids can go out and eat straight from the plant. They take a little longer to sprout--up to 10 days--but once they start forming branches and vines, they grow very quickly. Bushier varieties of peas won't need staking, but older kids might enjoy making a trellis and training the vines themselves on taller varieties. In addition to the sweet fruit that kids can eat, pod and all, the white or pink flowers on pea plants have a lovely scent and are also edible. Make sure the kids don't eat all the flowers before they can set fruit.
The tiny seeds of head lettuce and baby salad greens might be too small for young children to handle easily, but fortunately salad seeds aren't very particular about how they're planted if you just want to harvest leaves and not heads. You can buy pre-mixed sweet salad seeds, or make your own nutritious, colorful mix with butter lettuce, romaine, lollo rossa, red oak, or spinach. Simply sprinkle a handful of seeds over a prepared area and see what comes up, or plant seeds in rows about an inch apart. Start cutting the leaves off after about a month. They will grow back a few times and remain tender and tasty as long as the weather isn't too hot or too cold.