Gardening Series

Gardening with Young Children

Hands-on gardening with young children tunes their taste buds to fresh fruit and vegetables and the enjoyment of healthy eating early in life. The sensory impact of gardening creates a positive understanding of how seeds turn into plants helped by soil, sun, water—and human care. Young children learn essential gardening skills for healthy living: planting, caring, harvesting, and ultimately preparing tasty eating experiences. Designated production gardens in childcare center outdoor learning environments can inspire lifelong healthy eating habits and provide replicable models for the families they serve.

Gardening Activity Guide

The Gardening Activity Guide, companion to the Childcare Center Production Garden Series, is also based on the NLI Preventing Obesity by Design (POD) program. The aim is to encourage children’s physical activity and outdoor learning through gardening and related activities. Garden educators and volunteers are guided through a 12-step, hands-on learning process with young children to engage them in seasonal fruit and vegetable gardening. Each step includes suggestions for related children’s literature. Prior gardening experience is not assumed.

The Gardening Activity Guide is a product of the COLEAFS project (Childcare Outdoor Learning Environments as Active Food Systems), supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant, 2017-68001-26354, from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

LOCAL FOODS: Childcare Center Fruit & Vegetable Gardening Series

The Childcare Center Production Garden Series is a joint production of NLI, NC Cooperative Extension, and the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS). This project was supported by the John Rex Endowment. Download pdfs below.

Created for early childhood educators, the series is an outcome of NLI’s many years of experience with childcare garden design, installation, and professional development, via centers participating in the NLI Preventing Obesity by Design (POD) program. Topics include creating garden infrastructure, growing and preparing fruits and vegetables in warm and cool seasons, and composting techniques.

1. Growing and Cooking Fruits and Vegetables at Childcare Centers

This publication summarizes the benefits of fruit and vegetable gardening with children. It includes age-appropriate activities for childcare providers to engage young children in using fresh produce from a production garden for cooking and eating. This is the first of eight publications about childcare center production gardens.

Mitchell, C., Moore, R., Cosco, N. (2015). Growing and Cooking Fruits and Vegetables at Childcare Centers. LF-007-01. Raleigh: NC State Extension.

2. Creating Childcare Center Production Gardens

This publication focuses on developing fruit and vegetable production gardens in the Outdoor Learning Environment (OLE) of childcare centers. Included are basic garden design and layout to help childcare centers get started in year-round gardening activities. This is the second of eight publications about childcare center production gardens.

Moore, R., Cosco, N., Konradi, S., Archer, M. (2015). Creating Childcare Center Production Gardens. LF-007-02. Raleigh: NC State Extension.

3. Growing Warm-Season Fruits and Vegetables in Childcare Production Gardens

This publication focuses on easy-to-grow, child-friendly, warm-season fruits and vegetables suitable for childcare center gardening. This is the third of eight publications about childcare center production gardens.

Archer, M., Konradi, S., Lelekacs, J., Driscoll, E. (2015). Growing Warm- Season Fruits and Vegetables in Childcare Production Gardens. LF-007-03. Raleigh: NC State Extension.

4. Growing Cool-Season Vegetables in Childcare Production Gardens

This publication focuses on easy-to-grow, child-friendly, cool-season vegetables suitable for childcare center gardening. This is the fourth of eight publications about childcare center production gardens.

Archer, M., Konradi, S., Lelekacs, J., Driscoll, E. (2015). Growing Cool-Season Vegetables in Childcare Production Gardens. LF-007-04. Raleigh: NC State Extension.

5. Snacking and Cooking with Warm-Season Produce from Childcare Production Gardens

This publication includes simple recipes that childcare center cooks and educators can use to engage children in snacking and cooking with fresh warm-season fruits and vegetables from on-site production gardens and elsewhere. This is the fifth of eight publications about childcare center production gardens.

Mitchell, C. (2015). Snacking and Cooking With Warm-Season Produce. LF-007-05. Raleigh: NC State Extension.

6. Snacking and Cooking with Cool-Season Produce from Childcare Production Gardens

This publication includes simple recipes that childcare center cooks and educators can use to engage children in snacking and cooking with fresh cool-season vegetables from on-site production gardens and elsewhere. This is the sixth of eight publications about childcare center production gardens.

Mitchell, C. (2015). Snacking and Cooking With Cool-Season Produce. LF-007-06. Raleigh: NC State Extension.

7. Composting in Childcare Production Gardens

This publication is a how-to guide for starting a garden-related standard compost bin in a childcare center Outdoor Learning Environment (OLE). Included is guidance on design, construction, and management of compost bins as well as curriculum connections. This is the seventh of eight publications about childcare center production gardens.

Sherman, R. (2015). Composting in Childcare Center Gardens. LF-007-07. Raleigh: NC State Extension. 

8. Vermicomposting in Childcare Production Gardens

This publication is a how-to guide for starting a garden-related vermicomposting bin in a childcare center Outdoor Learning Environment (OLE) or indoors. Included is guidance on design, construction, and management of vermicomposting bins as well as curriculum connections. This is the eighth of eight publications about childcare center production gardens.

Sherman, R. (2020). Vermicomposting in Childcare Center Gardens. LF-007-08. Raleigh: NC State Extension.