Don’t underestimate the value your children’s contributions around the homestead and garden! With their energy and natural interest in the world around them, children can lend a real hand in this year’s gardening efforts. Here are a few family-friendly garden activities and ideas, plus garden chores for kids listed by age range. We hope this helps you get started on this year’s family garden!
Garden Chores for Kids
Yes, children can and should have garden chores! Their contribution is valuable and their perspectives bring energy and interest to every garden.
If gardening is new to you and your family, don’t worry. We’ve assembled a list of garden chores for kids by age range. Bear in mind that these are only suggestions; every child and every family is different.
However, we hope this list will get you started working on the garden as a family. No one person can tackle the job of growing food for an entire family by themselves. Even if you don’t grow all your own food, growing anything is lots of work!
Do the Garden Chores Together
There’s an old Quaker proverb that I love:
Thee lift me and I’ll lift thee and we’ll ascend together.
What an incredible way to look at family life! Families are so different from house to house and situations on the homestead vary so broadly, but I think this little saying reflects the true goal of the homestead family.
We struggle sometimes in our families and on our homesteads but, still, there is work to be done and family is the best way to get that work done.
To work well together, it’s important to have clear expectations. Be sure you decide together:
- How big the garden will be
- How many of each plant you will plant
- How you will use the food you produce
- How you will preserve the food you produce
Garden Planning Exercise
Here’s a little activity you can try to get the kids (and you!) ready for this year’s garden.
- Before you step outside, get everyone’s input on what you should be growing in the garden. Children will be more likely to grow vegetables and fruits they actually want to eat.
- Assemble a list of basic plants and write each onto an index card.
- Toss the cards into a hat and have everyone withdraw an equal number. The chosen plants will be the ones that each family member has stewardship over this coming year. That doesn’t mean they have to do ALL the work associated with that plant BY THEMSELVES. It simply means that they’re “in charge” of that veggie or fruit.
- Look up each plant in your gardening book and figure out if you want to start them from seed, or buy seedlings (baby plants) at your local nursery. Maybe it will be a mixture of both. Make a seed starting schedule.
- Draw a garden map to be sure you know where each plant will go.
- Sketch out a planting schedule for the spring, summer, and fall (if you’re doing a fall garden).
As a bonus, create a harvest schedule so you can be ready for the summer abundance. As a bonus, bonus, plan a preservation schedule for the year. If you need help with that, check out our E-book, Once a Month Canning!
If you’d like some free scheduling sheets from that book to get started with your planning, just join our newsletter below and we’ll email them right to you.
Sharing the Garden Chores with Your Kids
Even though you can kill yourself on five acres the same way you can on fifty acres, typically the more land you have, the more there is to do. Add animals and a growing family onto that and you’ll be plenty occupied! You really need all hands helping, no exceptions.
When children are still young, their need for supervision and instruction is high while their contribution level to the homestead is conceptually low.
Teenagers can pose a challenge with their busy schedules and maturing lives (school, jobs, extracurricular activities, etc.). Sometimes, it can feel like it’s just easier to let them go off and do their own thing.
I challenge you to find meaningful ways to keep them included and involved. I’m not above bribery, for instance. I will trade labor for cake, for example.
Here’s a helpful reminder: If you’re just starting out on your homestead journey, you can plan for the homestead to grow as your family ages into the work that needs to be done. If you’re already living on an active homestead and just beginning your family, certain realities will need to be assessed head on.
In other words, the quality care of the family comes first; which may leave the pigs unattended some years and the garden less than productive. A wise farm mother once advised me to “take care of everything with feelings first.”
Everything else is negotiable, as you have time.
Homestead Emotional Support from Children
Please don’t undervalue the value of your children’s emotional and spiritual support.
- Young children keep things fun, new and exciting in our everyday work with their endless supply of fascination.
- Teenagers and adult children can be such a physical help when it comes to all the manual labor to be done, but their unique perspectives and ideas can be a boon to our world-weary minds, too.
In short, children, whatever their age, remind us just what exactly it is we’re striving so hard to accomplish on the homestead. They are the point of all the work, after all.
List of Garden Chores for Kids by Age
A garden can be a very fluid concept, changing each year in composition, success, and even location. There is ALWAYS something to be done in the garden, so it’s an easy place to make assignments for all ages and skill levels.
Garden Chores for Younger Children
Before the Growing Season:
- Make lists or draw pictures of fruits and veggies they’d like to eat and plant*
- Draw their own garden maps*
- Help plant winter sown seeds with adult supervision
- Clean hand tools and seed pots
- Deliver previously preserved but expired veggies and fruits to the compost or livestock
- Help perform a simple soil test
- Make seed bombs
*Even if the lists and maps of your young children don’t represent reality, it’s important that they still feel included and participate. You may not be able to grow bananas in your climate (a constant garden request of my younger kids!), but you can grow something they’ll enjoy as much. The conversation and participation is the important part.
You’re growing more than veggies and fruits – you’re growing future gardeners and homesteaders!
During the Growing Season:
- Dig small holes for transplants
- Harvest extra weed plants and herbs for livestock
- Help build a scarecrow
- Tie bird tape on berry bushes
- Forage edible weeds and other small items with their own special basket or bucket
- Pull up weeds and lay on the soil surface for mulch
- With help from an older sibling, write up and place plant labels
Garden Chores for Older Children
Before the Growing Season:
- Set up and maintain cold frames at the beginning and end of the season, even over winter
- Harvest cover crops by chopping and dropping, composting or turning into the soil
- Assemble containers and soil for winter sown seeds
- Prune spring fruit trees and fall perennials with your training
- Clean garden equipment and store in a dry, designated space
- Sharpen and clean tools with appropriate supervision in the winter
- Perform a DIY soil test
During the Growing Season:
- Assist with starting plants from seed for the spring and fall garden
- Plant out home-grown or nursery-bought seedlings
- Turn the compost pile and wet it down, if necessary
- Harvest green manures by chopping and dropping, composting or turning into the soil again
- Stake and prune tomatoes, or any other vining plant to grow vertically
- Arrange bird netting over seedlings
- Perform one or two daily walk-thrus of the garden to harvest
- Harvest, clean, and sort seeds for long-term seed saving
- Clean up and compost spent plants
- Assist with preservation efforts – hanging, dehydrating, canning, freeze drying, etc.
What chores do your kids help you with in the garden? Be sure to share in the comments section for other readers to be inspired.
See it Through with Garden Chores for Kids
The difference between a hobby and a homestead, in my opinion, is motivation. If a garden is a hobby, then it can be taken up and put down as time allows.
Too busy this spring? Ah well, no garden, no biggie. Homesteading, on the other hand, becomes a lifestyle. No garden? Disaster!
- How will we afford to eat our vegetables if we’re not growing them?
- How will we ensure our meat is clean if we aren’t raising it?
- How will we be able to stock our herbal medicines if we don’t cultivate and harvest them?
Wherever you are on your homesteading journey (and that’s a totally personal goal, not to be compared to other families), that place becomes sacred ground for you.
- You stay committed to the work because the work is meaningful.
- The work serves your family and gives you some security.
- The work also passes on much of your belief system, both as a person and as a parent.
In short, the work becomes a definition of you. What you truly believe and how you really feel is simply evident for your children to see and absorb.
By the way, you don’t have to have given birth to children for them to be “yours” and for you to be an important mentor in their lives. If you don’t have children of your own, become the favorite “garden lady” or “garden gentleman” on your block and teach the next generation how to grow their own food!