Featured Activity: Building a Family Garden

Published on February 21, 2022 - Updated on February 21, 2022

Spring is just around the corner, which means it is the perfect time to get outside and get those gardens ready for the growing season! It's also a great activity to do with your kids as gardening is both educational and fun! Planning and cultivating a garden might seem daunting at first, but it's actually pretty easy with the right plants and information about your growing region. Read on if you are ready to build a family garden and enjoy some delicious fun!


The Why

  1. Preparing for, planting, and maintaining a garden builds strength, increases flexibility, and exercises the mind and body.
  2. Contact with nature grounds an individual and is good for the environment.
  3. The process of gardening also teaches responsibility, patience, and a sense of accomplishment. 
  4. When designing a garden as a family, a common goal is established. It also creates an ideal opportunity for casual conversation with your kids as you maintain your garden over time.
  5. Children learn so much about nature, science, math, and nutrition when gardening. Talking about the nutritional value of your hard work serves as a great segue into more healthy food choices.


The When

The best time to build your garden depends on the plant itself, and the climate of your area. In many regions of the country, early spring is a great time to start indoor seedlings since there is sometimes still snow on the ground, while in other warmer parts it is time to start outdoor gardening.

Check the Farmer’s Almanac for a general sense, and if you still have time, there are many ways to begin the planning process and get the kids excited about the warm weather to come. You can even prepare all year long by actively composting organic matter to nourish your soil. 

Some communities also have compost programs alongside their trash service. Check to see if yours is one of these! They will pick up your organic matter and compost it for you so that you can pick up your allotment during the gardening season.


The What, Where, and How

For plants that must begin in trays or pots inside, you need to start them about 6-8 weeks before its time to actually plant your garden. However, there are many ways to build excitement in the meantime.

  1. Choosing your garden’s location, varieties, and drawing a map or plan of your intentions is a great way to get started. 
  2. Identify a theme. In the past, we grew a snack garden with snap peas, carrots, cherry tomatoes, and broccoli. We also planted the herb dill to use in a dip with all our fresh veggies. During another year we designed an Italian garden with items used in Italian cuisine and included tomatoes, onions, garlic, and herbs like bay leaves, oregano, basil, and parsley.
  3. Prepare a craft project that will ultimately serve as markers for your planned garden. We have used painted rocks with pictures of the vegetables and names of the herbs for marking. We also made “clothespin bugs” with laminated labels in their mouths to live in the garden next to their designated varieties.
  4. Plant indoor seeds. Disinfect pots before planting. 
  5. Tidy up your garden and eliminate past plant roots. Refrain from tilling the beds until the weather is warmer and the soil begins to dry and is ready for planting.


The Who

Let your children really take ownership of the family garden. Making the process gradual will ensure that it isn’t rushed and they have many opportunities to contribute along the way.

  1. Be sure to wear sunscreen and hats and appropriate shoes when gardening.
  2. Always wash hands before and after gardening.
  3. Take a picture of your children with the plants each week so they can track the growth of the garden.
  4. Let your little ones pick the produce when ready, but keep in mind that it should always be washed before eating.
  5. It's also impactful to include them in preparing and cooking as well, so they can experience the entire process. 

If you manage to produce enough to share, your children benefit greatly from the opportunity to give the fruits (or vegetables) of their labor to family and friends. Gardeners of all ages appreciate the chance to share their hard work with others. Also, they feel an authentic sense of generosity and pride in their delicious success.

Of course, if outdoor space is not available, or your climate is not conducive, build a terrarium!! The kids will absolutely love this fun and easy process, and when constructed correctly, terrariums can be fairly self-sustaining.

Do you have a family garden? What do you like to grow!? What are your kids' favorite jobs to do in the garden? Let us know in the comments below!

Interested in other great ideas to stay healthy as a family together? Check out our blog post 5 Healthy Homemade Snacks for on the Go, Successfully Reduce Screen Time for Your Kids, and Maintaining an Active Outdoor Lifestyle in Every Season!

Looking for something more specific to your area? Be sure to download the happyly app and have fun adventures, family-friendly restaurants, and educational hot-spots right at your fingertips!

Thoughtfully captured by:
Emily Coleman
Emily Coleman is a Jersey girl born and raised who caught the outdoor bug upon moving to Vermont to pursue a degree in Adventure Education and Environmental Studies from Green Mountain College. She spent most of her years before college deeply entrenched in the world of competitive cheerleading before discovering a passion for outdoor sports including mountain biking, white water kayaking, bikepacking, backpacking, slacklining, rock climbing, and skiing. Having been surrounded by children her entire life in her mother's daycare, she always had a strong affinity for kids. She moved to the mountains of Jackson Hole after graduating to coach for the local Kayak Club during the summers and nanny in the winters. Becoming a part of the Happy Active Family team felt like the perfect collision of her passion for building strong community bonds and encouraging an outdoor lifestyle.
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