Raise a crop of lifelong gardeners by getting kids outside and in the dirt with one of these fun garden games. You'll find your backyard is full of surprises, wonder, and endless moments of play.
As Big as Me
The object of the game is to find something in the garden as big as a body part. Snap peasmatch well with fingers, squash and eggplant team up with feet, and collard leaves can stretch to arm or leg lengths. tomatoes and peppers can be as big as a nose, an elbow, or a hand. If you're growing corn, kids might even be able to find stalks as tall as they are!
Garden Scavenger Hunt
This is a great way to discover what goes on in the life of the garden. Use one of these sample lists of fun-to-find items, or create your own. If some children are non-readers, use picture-based lists or pair them with someone who can read.
Critter Hunt. Find a critter that: makes a buzzing sound, slithers, crawls, hides, stings, flies, is friendly, flutters, stinks, inches along, eats other bugs, hovers. (Remind children that they should just spot, not catch, each critter.)
Nature Hunt. Find: pinecone, fuzzy leaf, curly tendril, yellow flower, smooth rock, smelly leaf, feather, stick as long as your foot.
Give kids a set amount of time to mark off their lists, or declare that the first child or team who finds a certain number of items wins
Grow Your Name
Create a spot in the garden for your child to spell out her name or initials in flowers or herbs. Marigolds and begonias work great for this, as do leaf lettuce and spicy globe basil. Or, if you're growing pumpkins, let her "carve" her initials into the skin while the pumpkin is young (melon-size). Using a ballpoint pen, press hard enough just to break the skin. As the pumpkin grows, the initials will scar over and grow right along with it.
Cherry Tomato Checkers
Plant at least two different colors of cherry tomatoes, such as Sun Gold (yellow) and Super Sweet 100 (red), to use as the checkers. Create a checkerboard by covering a standard checkerboard with plastic wrap, drawing one on the driveway with chalk, or painting one on a tree stump or picnic table. When the kids are ready to play, have a box of toothpicks handy—they can create "kings" by skewering two tomatoes together. (You can also adapt this idea to play Tomato Tic Tac Toe.)
Have each family member "adopt" a plant (or two or three) in the garden and care for it throughout the growing season (with parents providing help as needed, of course). Plan awards for things like the biggest tomato or pumpkin, weirdest vegetable shape, tallest tomato plant, longest melon vine, biggest squash leaf, and curliest pumpkin tendril. Also create an award for the greatest harvest per plant by weight or volume (let the kids do the measuring). Keep track of it all on a chart you post on the fridge. Friendly with the neighbors? Pump up the competition by running a multi-family Harvest Olympics, awarding winners within and between families.
Article by Julie Martens.