Image by Vijay
By Nikki Phipps
(Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden)
Kids love nature. They love dirt, and they love planting seeds and watching them grow. But what kids love most are fun plants, which hold their interest. Capture a child’s attention through sensory elements by including plants with interesting or unusual characteristics as well as those that stimulate or appeal to their senses. Kids not only enjoy plants having various shapes and colors but those with which they can smell, taste, touch and hear. Let’s take a look at some fun plants for kids.
Fun Plants for Color and Shape
Kids love colorful flowers in a variety of shapes. Here are some great selections to try:
- Sunflowers - What kid can resist the fun-filled sunflower? Sunflowers come in a variety of sizes and colors, from the nearly 12-foot tall ‘Mammoth’ variety to the smaller 3-foot ‘Sonya.’ There are common yellow sunflowers, or you can grow red and orange varieties, such as ‘Velvet Queen’ and ‘Terracotta.’ Regardless of the type, kids will be fascinated by its sun-chasing characteristics, not to mention the scrumptious seeds that follow.
- Hens and chicks – This is a fun succulent plant that produces offsets resembling small versions of the mother plant. It is great for filling in nooks and crannies nearly anywhere, even old boots.
- Snapdragons – Snapdragons are fun plants for kids, not only by their many colors and sizes, but also by pinching the blossoms to make the dragon’s mouth open.
- Nasturtiums, marigolds and zinnias - these flowers, with their wonderful mix of colors, have always been favorites for kids.
Fun Plants for Smell and Taste
Scented plants awaken their sense of smell. Good choices here include:
- Four o’clock - This is a bushy plant with trumpet-shaped flowers in shades of pink, yellow, or white. The fragrant flowers don’t open until late afternoon, around four o’clock.
- Mint - A commonly grown aromatic herb that is great for kids. Mint comes in numerous varieties, all with unique scents, from peppermint and orange to chocolate, lemon and pineapple.
- Dill – This is another scented herb that kids will enjoy. Not only does it smell like pickles, but it also has feathery looking foliage.
Vegetables are always considered fun plants for kids. They not only germinate quickly but can also be eaten once they have matured. Many vegetables are now available in unusual colors, shapes and sizes (from speckled beans, yellow tomatoes and red carrots to miniature cucumbers and pumpkins). Not only do kids love to eat produce harvested from their own garden, but the fun colors add excitement to the experience. Here are some good choices to start with:
- Beans are always good choices for kids as their seeds are large enough for small children to handle easily. ‘Purple Queen’ is a bush variety, and once ripe, the beans can easily be spotted by their purple color.
- Radishes - Although radishes have small seeds, they germinate quickly, making them ideal for impatient kids. The variety called ‘Easter Egg’ produces red, purple and white radishes. These fun, colorful, egg-shaped radishes are a good choice for kids.
- Tomatoes – Tomatoes are often a huge hit in the children’s garden, especially cherry tomatoes. Kids will love the ‘Yellow Pear’ variety, which produces yellow, bite-sized tomatoes rather than red ones.
- Pumpkins - Another good pick for kids, but for something a little different and lots of fun, try the ‘Jack Be Little’ variety, which produces miniature orange pumpkins. There is also a white form available called ‘Baby Boo.’
- Gourds - These are always a favorite with kids as well. While the ‘Birdhouse’ gourd is oftentimes the most popular, there are other varieties available in different colors and sizes that also appeal to kids, such the ‘Goblin Eggs’ mix. This variety is a mix of miniature egg-shaped gourds in various colors.
Fun Plants to Touch and Hear
Children love to touch soft, fuzzy plants. Some favorites include:
- Lamb’s ear – This plant has fuzzy silvery-green leaves that kids love to touch.
- Bunny tails - A small ornamental grass that produces soft, powder-puff flowers.
- Cotton - Don’t overlook the cotton plant. It is easy to grow and produces soft, fluffy white cotton. Adding it to the garden is a good way to teach kids about the history of cotton and how it’s used in making various things, such as clothing.
Some plants make interesting sounds. These plants can also be fun for kids.
- Ornamental grasses come in many varieties and as wind moves through their foliage, it produces soothing sounds.
- Chinese lantern plant produces rows of inflated papery, orange-red lantern-like seed pods that create interesting sounds in the wind.
- Money plant produces lightly scented purple or white flowers, but it’s actually the translucent, silver-dollar seed pods that make this plant fun for kids. The plant creates soft rustling sounds as it gently flutters in the wind.
Kids love anything that awakens their senses. Giving them the opportunity to fill a garden of their own with their favorite fun plants is a great way to encourage continual interest with this popular pastime.