Gardening with kids is a way to kill two (or more) birds with one stone. Growing and harvesting your own food helps your budget and creates a bit of self-sufficiency for your family. Having your children assist you in the garden builds the teamwork within your family, creates great family memories, and teaches children where their food comes from. When children grow their own produce they are more likely to eat the fresh fruits and vegetables they need to be healthy. Making gardening a habit at a young age begins healthy habits for a lifetime.
It is just the beginning of planting season here in Iowa. So far we only have a few hills of potatoes planted. Good Friday is traditionally the day to plant potatoes, so if you are looking to start a garden, this week is a great one to begin to make plans. Other early plants to sow include lettuce, radishes, snap peas, and onions.
My family has been gardening together for six years (at my best estimate). We are vendors in our small local farmer's market. The boys are very much a part of that, and probably don't remember a time when we were not a part of the market. My seven year old is a natural and cracks me up as he makes up little songs to sing when he is in the garden. He's already asleep so I'll have to share the song he created during last year's onion planting later this week. His dad and I can't remember it.
My preschoolers just completed a week-long unit on gardening. One of the books we read is a Caldecott Honor Book by Janet Stevens called Tops and Bottoms. To fully understand the book the child would need a bit of background knowledge about gardening, but I was able to supply that with a bit of discussion and some visual aids (vegetables) just prior to reading the story. In the story a clever hare tricks a lazy bear three times over the course of a season of gardening. It covers the parts of plants, the work involved in gardening, and several types of vegetables.
Other fictional gardening books include: Planting a Rainbow and Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert, The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss, and The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle. Since nonfiction is so important to young children, let me also recommend these books From Kernel to Corncob and From Eye to Potato by Ellen Weiss.