25+ super easy, super fun gardening activities for preschoolers that incorporate STEM and art education, and active, green living!
Spring has sprung, which means it’s time to get outside with the kiddos, and let them enjoy sunshine, fresh air and learn about the natural world.
As the days get warmer, the trees get greener, and wildlife flourishes, it’s a great time to enjoy some gardening activities with your kids.
Gardening with Preschool Kids is Fun and Educational!
Back when I worked as a teacher and early child educator, I was all about making the most of the warmer weather, getting outside, and gardening with little ones.
And if you need things to do on a rainy day, a garden theme fits well with this time of year, too!
The garden is a wonderland to your toddler, with so much to do, explore, and learn about.
Preschool Gardening Activities and Ideas
Seriously, there are endless gardening activities for kids this age!
And most gardening activities come with plenty of benefits for your kids, too. It’s easy to play for hours in the comfort and closeness of your own yard, while teaching and supporting your child in motor skills, sensory development, and their knowledge and understanding of the world around them.
If you’re in need of some inspiration to plan your gardening activities for the season, you’re in the right place.
I’ve rounded up with a whole bunch of great gardening activities for preschoolers you can do in the garden with kids aged 3 to 5.
These garden-themed crafts, toys and learning activities will bring out your kid’s green thumb (and any help with yard work is fine by me!).
And if you need more ideas, Imagine Childhood has an enviable collection of kids botany products and activities to add to these ideas!
Children will love these gardening activities, plus any task that gets them away from a screen is great! Being creative and enjoying the fresh air is good in my book.
Add to that, gardening is a great way to teach basic science to children.
Letting them encounter bugs, plants, and birds in a hands-on way can make learning fun! In my experience, you can incorporate age appropriate math, science, and art based learning activities in the garden.
There are so many ways to make an engaging lesson across topics and encourage exploration and self-learning with minimal materials.
Let’s jump in!
25+ Great Spring Gardening Activities for Kids
Check out these engaging and creative gardening activities and garden-themed projects that your toddlers will love to do and learn from this spring!
#1 Help Your Kids Plant Their Own Hanging Basket
A garden is beautiful because of the plants and flowers that grace it. What better way to help your preschool kiddo learn to appreciate this than help them grow them?
Depending on the space you have in your house, you can allocate a planter box, a hanging basket, or even a corner of the garden for your child to take special care of. You could also task them with caring for the planter box at the end of this outdoor play hideaway!
Make it even more engaging by letting them choose the seeds they want to grow at the garden center, or choose the colorful bedding plants, and help them to plant them.
You could also choose a theme for your plants, such as seeds that will attract birds to your garden!
You can even plant a sensory garden of fragrant herbs, too, each with a sign to identify which is which. This herb poster is a great add on to help them learn which is which. And growing herbs could lead to a discussion of the different way we can use them, such as herbal remedies, herbal tea, and flavoring our food!
They will love seeing the changes as the first shoots sprout through the soil. And kids activities like this one, which encourage responsibility and ownership, really help with independence.
I recommend using pre-grown plants, rather than starting from seed, for the youngest children, as they don’t always have the most patience.
Plus, letting them choose flower color is a pretty fun activity in its own right!
Another really fun option is to grow edible flowers, which can then be used to decorate dinner plates throughout the summer!
And then let them go to town on this garden and butterfly coloring poster to color their favorite flowers!
#2 Grow Your Own Vegetables
If a flower garden isn’t your thing, your kids can plant a vegetable garden instead.
This requires a little more room and, depending on the variety of vegetables, a deeper space than a planter box.
Many fruits and vegetables are best planted in the spring, including tomatoes, cucumbers, and potatoes.
Along with developing your children’s nurturing side and patience, growing veggies in your own garden is also a great way to encourage a fussy eater to put some new foods on the menu too!
Don’t forget to tag on some arts and crafts and have your preschoolers create a sign for each plant to label what you have planted!
And be sure to discuss growing cycles and what plants need to grow, using engaging and age appropriate language to help them learn.
#3 Water the Flowers
During a long hot summer, you may need to water the flowerbeds a couple of times per week, so use the springtime to train your toddler how to do it!
A hose might be too much for them to carry (and be too tempting to play with), but a cute kid-sized watering can will be perfect for them. Many gardening sets for kids also come with a watering can.
Be sure to talk with your kids about how plants and seeds need water and food for life, and maybe even how the sun helps them grow.
#4 Stomp In Muddy Puddles
This activity isn’t gardening specifically, but it is gardening adjacent, and a lot of fun for pretty much all kids.
Springtime weather can flit between glorious sunshine and unexpected showers, but make the most of the rain but stomping in the puddles with your little ones.
Yes, you heard me! Encourage your kids to go out and splash and jump in puddles (without worrying about the mess!)
If you know you are going on a puddle walk, you know to be prepared.
Make sure your kid is wearing gumboots and a rain suit, and there’s no issue about how much they splash!
It doesn’t have to be in your yard, you can take a fun puddle walk to the park, or even along your street.
One easy way to incorporate math and science in this activity is to bring along a ruler during your puddle exploration.
As your kids are exploring, have them measure each puddle to find the deepest and shallowest one!
Instant math activity and a ton of learning, with almost no materials, while still enjoying the outdoors.
#5 Make Cress Heads
If planting vegetables that take weeks (or even months or years) to bear fruit isn’t for you, start with fast growing and easy seeds like cress plants.
This is a simple gardening activity that even the most inexperienced gardeners can try!
You can make an easy cress plant pot out of used eggshells too. Simply fill the pots with cotton wool and sprinkle the seeds on top. Add water, and presto, in a few days they’ll begin to sprout!
You can get really creative and allow your kids to draw faces on the eggshells to incorporate an art theme.
When the cress grows, the plant will look like funny green hair!
This is a great gardening activity if you only have access to indoor space, or to do on a rainy day inside!
Another option for indoor gardening is this “My First Garden” kit for kids.
#6 Garden Theme Scavenger Hunt
Preschoolers love hunting for things, so why not have your children hunt for things around the garden in a scavenger hunt.
A garden theme scavenger hunt can spark curiosity about the world around them and encourage imagination and early scientific inquiry.
If this sounds overwhelming, there’s no need to complicate it.
It doesn’t have to be tricky. It doesn’t even have to be written down.
Simply send your kids on challenges to find things.
It could be simple like a leaf or a flower.
You can increase the stakes and level by being more specific.
Find a leaf that is bigger than your hand.
Try to spot a red flower.
This gardening activity is easy, and can be a great way to develop early math knowledge. Ask your child for 3 stones, or 4 blades of grass, for counting.
Or tell them to find big, medium, and small items for comparison.
For language, ask them to find tiny, small, medium, large, huge and gigantic to encourage them to use some Tier 2 words. Or short and long (blades of grass) and tall and short (flowers, etc.).
For spin off projects, you could then name the parts of the things you collect (i.e. flower and plant parts).
#7 Worm Charming
This sounds like a kid-version of snake charming, using a musical flute to make the creatures dance!
But worm charming is one of the most fun garden activities for kids.
The aim is to encourage worms to the surface of a field, grassy patch, or bit of dirt, without digging for the worms.
Encourage them to be creative, using musical instruments, or pots to bang, and stomping vibrations. Talk about how worms can respond to sound vibrations as a fun science lesson.
Then see how many worms come to the surface, or how many they can collect!
Worms, of course, are essential to gardening, and you can talk with your kids about how they help with composting, too. Any collected worms can be added to a compost heap if you have one, where the worms will help the process along, making excellent soil for future gardening activities.
If you don’t have a compost heap, see activity #15!
#8 Create Natural Art
Make art inspired by nature, and talk about other artists who do the same (British artist Andy Goldsworthy is a good example).
Collect leaves, flower petals, and natural objects to make an art installation with.
It can be as simple as collecting sticks, flower petals, stones, and leaves and turning them into pictures or sculptures.
You can do this while gardening. However, it’s also a great outdoor activity to do on a woodland walk, as there is so much to collect.
You can also do this in the fall too, as the autumn leaves give many colors to work with!
And if your kiddo doesn’t feel like making art? Keep the items to use in a fun gardening or forest themed sensory bin!
#9 Go On a Bug Hunt
Why not go for a bug hunt? Kids love all kinds of creepy-crawlies.
Track down the mini beasts in your garden and see how they move and behave. It’s a science fair project in your own backyard!
Preschoolers will love looking at the legs and seeing how the bugs wiggle and move, and then trying to wiggle and move like a bug themselves.
You can also talk about life cycles, such as how moth larvae turn into moths, as an example (and how caterpillars turn into butterflies, as all toddlers know from one of the best preschool gardening books of all time!).
You can even use a Bug Box, like this one, and observe the tiny critters with the magnifying lenses.
#10 Help Pulling Weeds
Not all gardening activities mean you have to grow something – you can also weed!
Pulling weeds can be an ominous chore, but with kids, you can make it a game, and they will enjoy being a great gardening helper!
You’ll need to show them how to do it, and be close at hand so that they don’t also pull up your prized roses, actual plants, or freshly seeded grass!
It teaches them to be responsible for nature and saves you some hours on the yard work. Toddlers will love it more with some gloves and tools that suit their little hands, like this Kids Gardening Tool Set.
#11 Bake in a Mud Kitchen
Baking in a mud kitchen is one of my favorite sensory and outdoor activities for preschoolers.
This creative and messy fun is loved by kids, and the scooping, mixing, and pouring helps to develop their fine motor skills too.
You can have fun making your own mud kitchen from old pallets and metal accessories, teaching some basic engineering skills along the way.
Alternatively, you can get a pre-made one, like this seriously amazing mud kitchen from TheTot, or do it in a basic sensory bin in a stand!
#12 Fairy Garden
Fairy gardens are great for “teaching” imaginative play, something preschool kids and older naturally gravitate to throughout different stages of their learning and development. Add to that, they really cheer up a corner of dirt or base of a tree.
You can make little fairy chairs from twigs and stones, or use this gorgeous Fairy House Kit to make a truly special fairy circle.
Slowly add to it over time, planting new pieces as you get them. It’s also nice to include fairy garden accessories in gifts such as an Easter basket for toddlers or toddler stocking at Christmas, to encourage them to explore new ideas and care for it over time!
#13 Rock Painting Art
Rock painting is great fun and a lovely way to add a splash of color to your garden.
Using acrylic paints so it doesn’t wash away in the rain, you can paint lovely patterns and designs onto large, smooth stones. Hide them away in the flowerbeds for a fun surprise, hidden in the shade of your flower bed.
Painted rocks also could be a good way to mark what you’ve planted in your vegetable garden too! Have your preschool kiddo paint a carrot on a rock, planting it where you planted the carrot seeds, for example!
#14 Perfume Petal Potions
When I was a little girl I used to love making my own ‘perfume’.
It mainly involved finding a lot of colorful petals and squeezing them into bowls of water and letting them sit for a couple of days.
This is one of the super simple garden learning activities for preschool aged children, as their play potion can consist of anything they choose, and it helps to encourages their creativity.
They wouldn’t smell great, but it was still a lot of fun! And your toddler will love making perfumes or potions too!
#15 Create A Wormery
This could be a great way for your preschool kiddo to ‘re-home’ any worms you might find during the worm charming activity.
Bugs are fascinating to toddlers, and wormery activities allow your kids to see the secret lives of worms first hand! (a great fuss-free pet!)
You can make your own with wormery for free with a large, old plastic bottle, or check out this Worm farm kit available on Amazon.
#16 Create A Bug And Insect Hotel
It seems like we want to give all of the garden creatures homes! But having a bug hotel is actually great for your garden and can help populations of bugs survive, as more and more of their natural living environments are destroyed due to humans.
Bug hotels don’t have to be ‘house-shaped and cute’ (although many of them are!) you can DIY, with a pile of wood, logs, and newspaper balls. They make great places for your kids to explore once the bugs have moved in!
Imagine Childhood has a cute pre-made Bughouse or Butterfly House. Amazon has some great larger ones too.
#17 Make Bird Food Fat Balls
Part of learning about nature is learning about how to encourage and support bug, bird, and other life in our communities, which then lets you explore even more!
Encourage wildlife into your garden through your nature kids activities for preschoolers, such as by helping them find nutritious nibbles.
One of my favorite activities for doing this is by making bird food fat balls!
They’re easy to do! Simply mix up nuts, breadcrumbs, and raisins with some lard, or suet and mold into a ball shape using either your hands or a silicone baking mold.
You can mix it up with variations: make hanging ones with string too, to hang from a tree, or a bird feeder. You can encourage children to enjoy bird-watching by adding the tasty bird treats to this Window Bird Feeder so the children can observe them from indoors too.
#18 Have A Snail Race
One of my favorite toddlers’ activities I remember from my own childhood is having snail races! You can find snails in most gardens, hiding under leafy plants or under rocks. Snails like it where it’s cool and damp, so you won’t often find them in the sunshine.
Snails are slow movers, so don’t make a track that is too long or your race will take hours! You can either make a circular track and let them race from the center to the edge, or a traditional one with lanes (although the snails won’t know they’re racing and might end up crossing over a few times!)
Mark it out with chalk or use sticks as boundaries. To look after the snails, keep the track wet, and don’t leave the snails racing in full sunlight.
And be sure to make sure they’re back after you’re finished with the snail play!
#19 Re-Grow Veggies from Kitchen Scraps
One of my favorite ideas for teaching toddlers and older kids about gardening, plant lifecycles, and nature is re-growing veggies from the food you eat!
Many veggies are easy to sprout from scraps, and in my experience toddlers delight in watching their dinner leftovers sprout into lettuce, carrot tops, beans, potatoes, pumpkins and more!
You can pair this with other science and math learning activities, such as as measuring process and keeping a journal about food, sunlight, etc.
And you can teach kids to compost whatever is left over!
#20 Make a Simple Terrarium
Terrariums are loads of fun, and you can buy a pre-made kit or go the DIY route.
Collect some empty jam jars or peanut butter jars with lids, and fill them with the substrate you need for a terrarium: a layer of small pebbles on the bottom, followed by some activated charcoal, and then soil.
Depending on what age group you’re working with, you can use simple language to explain how the pebbles and activated charcoal help with drainage, and help the plants “breathe” through their roots!
On top of the substrate, add some decorations (fairy garden accessories work well) and a small succulent or two.
#21 Cook or Eat What You Grow
After all the work and effort your kids have put into re-growing kitchen scraps, growing herbs, vegetables, and edible flowers, be sure to let your toddler or preschooler enjoy the fruits of their labor, and eat them!
Toddlers and preschool aged kids love helping in the kitchen. I recommend getting a kitchen tower and some kid-friendly knives, and getting your kids to help prepare any veggies and herbs you’ve grown.
This can be a really fun way to encourage them to eat more veggies and unprocessed foods, and to try flavors that might be new to them!
#22 Dissect a Flower
This is a really fun way to get younger kids into science and botany.
Pick a flower with lots of petals, such as tulip or a gerbera daisy, and set your toddler up at a table with some toddler appropriate tweezers, scissors, a magnifying glass and a sheet of paper and tape or glue.
Then slowly pull the pieces of the flower off, grouping them together on the paper and taping or gluing them in place, and then naming them and discussing their function.
Here’s a tutorial showing the process.
#23 Name the Sounds You Hear in the Garden
Toddlers love learning the names for different onomatopoeia, and spending time outdoors and in the garden is a great opportunity to listen and learn!
A few examples to get you started include:
- Whirr or Whoosh, as hummingbirds come up to a feeder
- Buzz, as bees or other bugs fly by or pollinate flowers
- Chirp or Tweet, as birds sing near by
- Splash or Slosh, when you jump in puddles
- Squish, the sound of mud squishing in your fingers in the mud kitchen
- Snap, the sound of a twig breaking
#24 Go for a Wildflower Walk
Of course, you can also get out of your own garden, and head out on a wildflower adventure, looking for the different wildflowers native to your region.
Another fun activity would be setting up a wildflower scavenger hunt, looking for the most common wildflowers and crossing them off as you spot them!
#25 Collect and Press Flowers
This is another fun activity I remember from my own childhood – pressing flowers!
Plant presses are fairly affordable, and make the job quite easy to dry and press flowers, leaves and herbs.
You kids can then use the pressed flowers in art projects, as decor, or as gifts for friends, family and teachers!
This botany collection kit can also help your kids collect and organize their specimens, although it’s better suited to older kids.
Benefits of Gardening for Kids
Gardening Engages All the Senses
Being outside and working in the garden makes it easy for your toddler to engage all their senses. Of course they can see and smell the flowers, plants and insects, but they can also taste herbs, and hear the different sounds of the garden. And of course, touch: getting your hands dirty in soil is one of the true pleasures of spring!
Kids + Gardening = Great for Motor Skills
Gardening and being outside can really help with fine motor skills, such as their pincer grasp, planting seeds and flowers, handling a watering can, etc.
Preschool Gardening is a Great Match for STEAM Learning
Kids this age are naturally inquisitive, and gardening is a great way to encourage them to follow their curiosity in whatever direction it takes them.
STEAM activities stand for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math, and it’s not too challenging to think of different ways you can incorporate STEAM activities through gardening:
- Science, including life cycles, water cycles, weather, how plants grow, ecosystems and the importance of bees, etc.
- Technology is a bit more abstract. However, helping your toddler learn to plan and organize their thoughts, create and test hypothesis, and identify and try to de-bug problems are skills that will help them in a technology-first world.
- Engineering could include building a mud kitchen or outdoor tent or fort for shelter; staking tomatoes and tall plants so they don’t fall down; or or building cool sculptures for the garden (art cross over).
- Art activities related to the garden include discussing the color of different plants and flowers, and trying to mix paint to match; painting or drawing pictures or making sculptures; and other crafts and bursts of creativity, such as making a stamp garden!
- Math activities might include counting, measuring, and comparing different sizes, lengths, etc.
How to Keep Toddlers Safe When Gardening
After gardening, be sure you give your toddler a thorough hand wash with warm soapy water, as well as practicing good hygiene when you’re out in the garden. This means no touching their face with dirty hands, and no eating while gardening!
You also want to make sure you are sun safe whenever you spend time outside with kids this age (and any age, really). Layer up in lightweight long-sleeved clothing or UV shirts, hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
And if it’s hot, be sure to stay well hydrated.
Final Thoughts on Gardening Activities for Preschoolers and Toddlers
I hope this article has made you want to grab your wellington boots and get out into the yard with your toddler or preschool aged kids! Spring is a great time to enjoy the outdoors, teaching about nature as it blooms back into summer, and to bring garden theme activities inside, too.
Having fun and learning with preschoolers is easy. So enjoy being creative together, planting and getting silly, and exploring different ways to play. And don’t be afraid of a little mud and dirt!
If you know any other parents or families that might enjoy the garden theme activities we have shared in this article, or learning about the garden and nature in general, feel free to share it with them.