Cathy James on Gardening with Kids

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Cathy James on Gardening with Kids

Cathy James, mother of two, and the blogger behind NurtureStore, is the author of a wonderful new e-book on gardening with kids called, The Garden Classroom: 52 Kids Gardening Activities. Here she shares some tips for getting kids excited about gardening.

The Garden Classroom Book by Cathy JamesThis post contains affiliate links.Update :: The Garden Classroom is now available as a traditionally-published book!

You can learn more about it here or buy it here.

JEAN: So, tell us, was your childhood gardening experience as magical, fun, and educational as you seem to want to make it for kids today? 

CATHY: I did spend a lot of time playing outdoors. My mum is a great gardener, so we had a pretty place to play at home, and also a bluebell wood nearby for bigger adventures – but I would have loved to have had more gardening fun and creative outdoor opportunities at my school.

Gardening with Kids ebook 2

JEAN: Will you tell us a bit about the School Gardening Club you are involved with now? How has your experience shaped how you think of kids and gardening?   

Cathy James NurtureStore smCATHY: I run the club with my friend Kate, and we take enthusiastic groups of eight- and nine-year-olds once a week, during recess after lunch, for hand-ons gardening and outdoor arts.

We were lucky to have the basics in place before we started – so we had two raised beds, picnic tables, and a small greenhouse – but the space was pretty much a blank canvass. The club has transformed this under-used area of the school into a thriving, vibrant garden. The children have grown all sorts of fruit, vegetables and plants over the course of the year and had a stall at the school fete that was brimming with produce.

The club has shown me how children can gain practical skills through gardening, and how a garden can build team work. We’ve seen the kids grow in confidence and really enjoy themselves.

Gardening with Kids ebook 6

JEAN: What do you feel are the benefits of getting kids involved in gardening at a young age? 

CATHY: Where to start?! I know from my own children, and the ones I worked with when I ran a home daycare, that simply being outside is good for children. Going out into the garden would transform moods when the kids were a little cranky or had lots of energy they needed to use.

Gardening is great sensory play for children, and the space gives them different options for active play or big art works, that you might not do so easily indoors. They get to have a real connection with nature and understand where their food comes from. I’ve found my girls are much more likely to try new foods and eat healthily when they’ve seen the plants growing. I think the garden is also a spiritual place and good for children’s well-being.

JEAN: Do you have any favorite ways to get children excited about gardening rather than thinking of it as a chore? 

Gardening with Kids ebook 8CATHY: Well, this question made me pause a little, because I don’t think I’ve met a child who’s viewed gardening as a chore. My whole philosophy is to help children learn in playful ways, and The Garden Classroom is full of ideas to make this happen in your own garden. A real favorite way is to create little worlds in the garden that children can use for imaginary play. In the book I show you how you can set up a dinosaur world, a fairy garden and a miniature garden. My girls really love to play this way.

JEAN: Sorry to make you pause there with the chore question! I guess most of my childhood memories of gardening involve weeding, watering, and picking bugs off the potatoes and squash. But I do love gardening now!

Gardening with Kids ebook 4

Anyway… You have so many wonderful garden-related activities packed into your book. I love how you added so much art… and snuck in plenty of learning as well. What are your favorite activities from the book? 

CATHY: Well Jean you don’t need me to tell you how great it is to take art outside. All that space and light, and the abundance of natural inspiration. Plus you don’t need to fret about making mess so much!

I think my personal favorites from the book are the handprint sunflowers. They make a wonderful collaborative project for a family or a class, and are so beautiful. I also really love the miniature meadow, because it’s combines growing and play, and I love the fun aspect of making a meadow you can bring the house with you.

Gardening with Kids ebook 1

JEAN: Anything else you would like to add? 

CATHY: I would love to encourage your readers to come over to NurtureStore and take a look at the video which gives more of a peak inside the book. I hope they are inspired to try some of the ideas and to enjoy all the benefits a garden classroom can bring to their children. Thanks for the chat!

JEAN: Thanks you, Cathy! I love your ideas, and as I said before, I love your book.

The Garden Classroom Book by Cathy James

While “classroom” is part of the title, The Garden Classroom book is perfect for families as well, in addition to schools and homeschools.

It is full of so many wonderful ideas for gardening with kids. There is everything from getting started with planting seeds to ways to incorporate science and math learning and plenty of garden arts and crafts. As a bonus it’s beautifully put together, full of colorful photos, and easy to use. Well worth the price, in my opinion.

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Cathy James on Gardening with Kids

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  1. Megan Macdonald says

    We are in the process of planning a new vegetable garden at our Early Learning Program and are trying hard to bring more of the outdoors inside too. Children have so many toys and spend a lot of time indoors these days, it’s nice for them to get back in touch with nature and experience as much of the magic of outdoors as they can.

  2. mumma_ox says

    Sounds like a great book. I love hearing about creative ways to involve littlies in the garden.

  3. says

    My girls (3 and 5) LOVE being in the garden. One of their favorite parts, composting, go figure :)
    There is so much our kids can learn from being outside and in nature. I”M excited to see what ideas are in Cathys new book, looks awesome!

  4. Brandy H says

    I absolutely love the idea of this book and am heading over now to view the video at NutureStore. My children love to garden and have an amazing garden growing with 5 big pumpkins so far!! Our school is required to have outdoor learning and this past year really took off with the third graders gardening and the whole school composting. So excited about this book and would love to have my own copy and will by one for the school. Sounds amazing!!

  5. says

    This book sounds great. My almost 4 year old sometimes acts like helping me in the garden is a chore, so I’d love ideas to make it more fun for her.

  6. kate says

    perfect timing, as I’m in the middle of designing a curriculum for our school garden:)

  7. says

    I run a Messy Art Club and a Lego Club at my library (and have done a Sewing Club) in the past. A Gardening Club sounds awesome and I’d love to win a copy of this book!

  8. sondra says

    i would love this book. my three year old loves to get his hands dirty in our garden- especially when it involves worms and coompost :)

  9. Wendy says

    Thanks so much for sharing this! What an incredible interview and super inspiring. Want to add these elements to our school environment immediately! I would love to win a free copy!

  10. Lenora Brown says

    I have for many years believed that gardening is very beneficial to children. Thank you for your great ideas and voicing the positives of this important activity for children. : )

  11. says

    Oh, I love this. We did a toddler garden for my daughter but she lost interest after about a month. Frankly, so did I once I saw the spiders move in. Stupid phobias. :) I do try to set a better example about getting out into nature than what I would normally pick for myself, being such a homebody.

  12. Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says

    I love the ideas and can’t wait to share it! There will be a b’zillion ways to love the outdoors and help our kids to root that same love in our kids. I’m so excited!

  13. says

    Looks like a fantastic book! When we started our garden last year we pretty much made it for the kids – it was a messy garden but they loved it and learned a ton!

  14. Melanie says

    We started a garden with the kids this year but I would love more ideas and inspiration. :)

  15. Jenn N says

    I would love this book! It would compliment the garden project we are beginning this school year. Thank you for the opportunity :)

  16. says

    Wow! so many great ideas! This looks like an excellent e-book! We made a garden for my 3 year old daughter this year out of a large cardboard watermelon box. It was so easy to do. She’s harvested tomatoes, cucumbers and basil so far. She is really loving the experience of having her own garden. I highly recommend giving kids their own mini garden and letting them choose their own plants

  17. DeBeeBell says

    Thanks for sharing these inspirational ideas. Can’t wait to try some. And thanks for offering this giveaway.

  18. says

    We just moved and have a blank slate when it comes to the yard. Would love some inspiration to help create a playful, beautiful, abundant garden for my family to enjoy. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Maura says

    My 4 an 3 year olds love to garden with me. We’ve been having lots of fun this summer, but would love to get new ideas.

  20. says

    sign me up–could use lots of inspiration in this area. My kids do like to help with the garden, but we are novice gardeners at best! I would love to see what’s inside :)
    Sarah M

  21. [email protected] says

    What a great resource! We want to start a gardening club at school!

  22. says

    Wow! My children’s school has an amazing garden, but sometimes the volunteers need ideas for Green Classroom lesson plans. This is great!

  23. jennifer lennon says

    Love your ideas. We have an outdoor classroom and a community garden at our school and can’t wait to incorporate some of these ideas!

  24. [email protected] says

    Love gardening with my kidos!

  25. Melissa B says

    We garden with our kids, 5 & 7, and would love ideas to make it more fun. The book looks great!

  26. Mari says

    I am just starting to plan my first garden for next year. These are great ideas! Can’t wait to try them out.

  27. Leigh Anne says

    We are expecting our first baby in November and I have been following you over the past year, I love all of your ideas and we are BIG on gardening. Very exciting!!! PS. LOVE The Owls.

  28. Brandee says

    Very exciting, my daughter loves gardening and this may be just the kick start we need to get going :)

  29. Rosemary says

    Nothing is more fun than making different leaf people!
    The book sounds great! Thanks for the chance!

  30. says

    What a great post! The eBook looks great, too. I am in the process of planning a playground and garden for my school and can use all the ideas I can find.

  31. angela says

    My classes have been so excited about finding seeds in their fruit. They are so anxious to plant the seeds and see what happens! This books sounds like a great compliment to my preschool classroom.

  32. Julie says

    We have tried starting a food garden for the past two years, but need to figure out how to involve our 4 kids, ranging in age from 14-2, so we are not doing ALL the work. Would love to have a copy of this book……

  33. Carey says

    SOunds like a GREAT book — gardening is our favorite art project of the day! Thanks for the chance…

  34. sudhaa says

    I love garndening and would love to learn ways to involve my kiddos into it..its so therapeutic to be in the garden tending to plants.

  35. megan says

    Great interview. I love gardening with my kids. They have such a sense of adventure about it.

  36. says

    Wow! i would love to win this book! I am trying to incorporate more hands-on, outdoor activities in my kindergarten class and these ideas look phenomenal!
    Jennifer @ Herding Kats In Kindergarten

  37. says

    We just moved into a new house and I’m super anxious to try to make a children’s garden in our backyard. Would love some ideas and inspiration to get me started!! :)

  38. says

    Garden club!? Wow! Love that idea!
    We just moved into a rental (a triplex) where the landlord gardens with his 3 year old and my 3 year old LOVES to join in!

  39. says

    Great giveaway and new follower!
    My husband is a gardener , this is great if he ever reached kids at the local school.

  40. Kate says

    This book would be a perfect gift for a friend who is a homeschooling and gardening mother of 4. Thanks for the idea and the giveaway!!!

  41. Leah says

    I love spending time in the garden and I involve my two-year-old son as much as I can. I always say we will never move out of our tiny house because the backyard is just so perfect for us. I will definitely track down this book and also share it with my friend who is starting his own outdoor school.

  42. Dena says

    Hi Jean, Gardening and where are food comes from are two very important things in our family. I would love to win this e-book and will buy it if I don’t! Thanks for sharing something so wonderful!

  43. kath gold in NC says

    Brillant* Gorgeous Posting–>I have been gardening most of my life but since moving from the midwest down south I have had
    terrible trouble :O( gardening… I have given up on my
    growing little by little this year sadly I used to grow corn,
    zuccuni, tomatoes, lettuces, carrots, radishes… all I can grow
    are some herbs..even those are 1/2 what I used … my kids have been growing seedlings in the house in long plastic green houses. We transfer outside to well established soil that has been dug/nurtured/no longer red clay haha…but We can’t seem to figure out bugs? grasshoppers? who eat leaves?big holes-we see hoppers… Kids do trying to do tests ..
    Well WE need the help…

  44. Kelly says

    I have been wanting to start a garden and think it would be a great outdoor project. My son is just happier being outside so we spend as much time as possible out there! He would love a garden.

  45. lynn says

    yay! my 5 year old and i just harvested the first of our tomatoes he started from seed today! this is a fantastic giveaway=thanks!

  46. Andrea D. says

    My kids would love this book. I would love this to help us. Thanks for the chance to enter.

  47. Enola says

    We would love this as our yard looks to be the same sort of size – any inspiration is aleays welcomed!

  48. Amy Osborn says

    Your book sounds so interesting. I am sure it would help my son appreciate more of what happens in the garden. I love the applications to science, etc.

  49. Dawn says

    Hi! I sure could use this book in my preschool classroom! My kids are very inquisitive and this book would keep them busy and informed! Thanks for the opportunity of entering to win it!

  50. Petra says

    Love it! I just got into gardening with my 2 year old this summer with a herb garden on the deck but I can’t wait to do more next year.

  51. christine says

    I would love to win this. This would help both my little girl and I to learn about gardening together. thanks for the chance to win.

  52. says

    What a beautiful book! My sons school is implementing an “Outdoor Classroom” this year. I’d love to share it with them.
    Thanks for the giveaway!

  53. katie says

    upset with myself for not starting up our veggie garden this year with the kiddos (i’ll blame being pregnant) however we did re-do our fairy garden… im no green thumb but it is fun letting the kids explore the outdoors and learning as they garden!!!

  54. Catherine says

    Would love to win this. Started a no-dig garden with our kids for the first time this year.

  55. Christina says

    Thanks for bringing this book to my attention. We did our first garden this past summer and have been enjoying the fruits of our labor. Amazing what my kids will now try because they had a hand in growing it!

  56. jennifer says

    i look forward to this book. jean, your question about it being a chore i definitely understand. i never liked all the attention my parents gave their garden (lacking in quality attention was a theme growing up). now when i garden with my little one (3 y.o.) i sometimes see “that look” when i’m about to water… takes about 25 min. and i have to do it every other day. i encourage to help but this is only sometimes effective…

  57. Annie says

    I am building two raised beds tomorrow and will be planting veggies with my little girl :D

  58. Jo says

    My kids love going outside, If I’m weeding they might dig along side me and look for bugs and snails. One day my daughter even found potatoes! We had a lovely homegrown dinner that night.

  59. Alisha says

    That sounds like a great book. I’m trying to get better about involving my toddler in our garden.

  60. Heather N says

    Yes, yes, yes! This book looks wonderful. I have to admit that my earliest memories of gardening had to do with weed pulling, the scorching sun, and BEES but I surely grew into a love of planting and gardening. My daughter really enjoys doing anything outdoors, so this book would help us learn grow. Thanks for the giveaway!

  61. says

    What great fun! As a nanny I always looking for fun ways to get the kiddos I work with involved and excited about nature and gardens…this may be just what I need!

  62. Teresa B says

    Looks wonderful! We are very much an outdoor family and I am always looking for ways to be creative! This looks great!

  63. Vikki says

    The book looks fantastic. With two young boys, I’m trying to overcome my fear of creepy crawllies in the garden. I can now look at a worm without running away screaming! :)

  64. Kristin says

    I would love to win this book. I actually work at a school and have been trying to think of ways to get the kids involved in gardening.

  65. Susan Lillie Robert says

    some many great activities and good quality time with family and students….

  66. Amanda says

    What a cool book! We are implementing a container garden in my young children’s class. I am on the lookout for ideas.

  67. Mandee Tejada says

    My kids would absolutely LOVE this— (and ME, too!) Awesome giveaway! Best of luck to all & I’m crossing my fingers for myself. :)

  68. says

    This book looks amazing. I would love to share this with the children in my 3-4 year old room, as they have just shown an interest in gardening, as many of their families have been getting their vegie patch ready for Spring :)

  69. Naomi de Silva says

    What a wonderful book! I would love to have this for my two daughters, who find the outdoors a fascinating and magical place.

  70. Jenn L says

    I would love the ideas and inspirations from this book, as I’m always lacking some for taking our daughter outdoors.

  71. Suzanne Tamburello says

    Love-A-Tot Childcare would love to receive this book to use in the classroom. We just started a garden area this year. It is an Itsy Bitsy Spider garden.we made pider planters from tires for the body and garden hose for the legs. Eyeballs are softballs…very fun! We planted cucumbers, onions and lettuce for starters…..Our center has many low-income families as well as foster children. It is a good way to teach them so they can also have gardens at home….
    Sincerely, Suzanne

  72. Susan Lynch says

    Oh I think I just make it in time lol! I would love this for my two and three year old….we have been busy growing sprouts on cotton wool, its really amazing how much pride they have in thier little pots at such a young age xx

  73. sharon says

    We just got a garden & would love to find out what we can do, play & grow with the family. We have two boys, aged 3 & 5!

  74. Melanie Scott says

    Great book! Trying to get my daughter to eat veggies and be more active in working in the garden — this book would definitely help!

  75. says

    Oh I would love to win this book. I have a family child care program and we could very easily incorporate many of the ideas in this book to it!

  76. Kim Brinson says

    Our Community Garden is looking to do more young child educational programs. I think this book would be great inspiration!

  77. Elise says

    this book looks wonderful! We have a home garden and also are part of a forest/farm school co op where many of these activities could be used!

  78. Eleasha says

    I likethat garden bingo idea, like a scavenger hunt for bugs. wehave such a variety around here. would love more ideas tioo.

  79. Jenny says

    I would love to win! I grew up with gardens and bugs. I live in a city now, but we are blessed with a backyard! I would love to turn our yard into the magic I remember, for my sons! Xo

  80. says

    My 19-month old LOVES being outdoors and I’m always looking for something new to do with her… this sounds like a wonderful resource for ideas!

  81. Elissa says

    Oh, I love this! I’ve always thought it would be fun to imitate Montreal Botanical Garden’s Garden of the Senses. When we were there, a blind man led casual tours, telling us to touch the various leaves, inviting us to smell leaves that smelled like Pepsi or rosemary. What a delight! A garden is heaven…

  82. says

    Hello! Sign me up! I teach in a parent/teacher cooperative preschool and we are just getting our garden established and the kids out their now harvesting. This spring we held a garden night where parents and children both brought in veggie plants to plant as well as clean up our garden space. Would love ideas on how to get both groups more involved. The book sounds wonderful!

  83. Anna Case says

    I’ve just recently become a big fan of the Charlotte Mason method of schooling, and I could really use some ideas to help my children find something to do when outside.

  84. Linda Olsen says

    I love your ideas! I lead gardening and arts & crafts projects for 4-H, and your book would be an awesome resource.

  85. Chelsea says

    I think it is important to involve your children in everyday activities such as gardening and cleaning. If a child has always participated in an activity the activity isn’t viewed as a chore. Healthy habits are formed from birth. I’m always interested in learning new approaches to playfully involve kiddos in my routine while still educating them about what we are doing.

  86. Ronnie says

    Looks good. My kids love to get out and help in the garden but I think I underestimate what they are capable of

  87. Jeanie says

    This looks like a great book! I’m trying to garden a wee bit with my 4 year old, but I’m a bit clueless and could definitely use some guidance and inspiration!

  88. Shilpa says

    Very useful ideas. The book seems like a wonderful way to introduce toddler and kids to gardening :)

  89. Janet says

    I would LOVE to win a copy of your book – my kids are very interesting in gardening, and I would love to get some more ideas for my kindergarten class!

  90. Kerri says

    My son loves to help out with our garden, especially when he gets to pick our harvest. I’d love some freh ideas to get mee creative in that outdoor space.

  91. Jackie says

    What a great book! Looks like so much fun… would love to win this for my daughter!!!! Thanks for the opportunity!

  92. [email protected] says

    I am co-owner of an outdoor nature preschool. The Garden Classroom would be a wonderful addition to our library!