One of my favorite places to teach children is in the garden, with the plants, animals, and insects that live there.
Here we can magnify and measure, write and sing, experience the fragility of life, and be comforted by its cyclical nature.
Plant some seeds, watch the birds and other busy creatures, talk about life, and peer at the big pictures of conservation, earth stewardship, and food security.
Read on to discover 11 of our favorite garden-themed books for the young folks in your life.
11 of the Best Gardening-Themed Books for Children
1. A Family Guide to Terrariums for Kids: Imagination-Inspiring Projects to Grow a World in Glass
With this book, adults can guide children in making adorable terrariums.
The opening states, “Shopping for a container is half the fun…” but for younger children, parents may want to pre-select non-breakable, clear containers.
The first four chapters cover container selection, potting medium options, plant selection, and terrarium care. Each includes detailed descriptions and color photos.
Following these chapters are step-by-step instructions for 15 different themed terrarium projects, including a “Closed Jungle Eco-System with Tropical Plants,” and a “Carnivorous Plant Terrarium.”
Author Patricia Buzo recommends choosing your plants before you pick your container, or in other words, selecting the themed project that you want to embark on before doing anything else.
And while it may sound intimidating, the materials lists include plant recommendations, and the steps are clear.
There’s a “helpful resources” section that lists websites for sourcing supplies as well.
This is a book that gives you the opportunity to prep a project as a teacher would. The younger the children, the more you should plan to have in place for them to put together.
In addition, I think the age recommendations for this book should be expanded to include high school. Creating a themed terrarium would make an excellent self-directed activity, especially if it includes sourcing materials in addition to completing a terrarium of their choice.
This is indeed a book for the whole family. Even if you don’t make terrariums, it’s full of essential growing information for succulents, mini tropicals, ferns, and more.
- Cool Springs Press
- 112 pages
- Dimensions: 7.5 x 9.25 inches
- Ages 4 to 12, grades pre-K to 7
2. Audubon Birding Adventures for Kids: Activities and Ideas for Watching, Feeding, and Housing Our Feathered Friends
This National Audubon Society publication invites children to become more aware of the birds around them.
It begins with inspiring bios of educators, authors, and a student whose love of birds has led them to successful, rewarding work.
The first chapter is a mini pocket field guide to 25 species with color photos and details about the markings, sizes, songs, and preferred foods of each.
Two chapters follow with fun games, activities, and projects for both indoor and outdoor birding.
Topics like “Plants for Birds” and an “Easy-to-Make Nesting Shelf for Robins and Finches” are two of the 20 learning activities included. And while each has a list of required materials, sometimes, “You just need your ears.”
Interspersed with bird humor and fun facts, this book is packed with colorful images, maps, and ideas for observing the habits of birds, and how to contribute to their welfare.
Elissa Wolfson and Margaret Barker’s book contains an abundance of educational material in a user-friendly format. It can be used to guide children even younger than the ages recommended below, so the whole family can enjoy birding together.
- Cool Springs Press
- 96 pages
- Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.2 x 9.8 inches
- Ages 8 to 12, grades 3 to 7
There’s more to “Beehive” than meets the eye! The first two-thirds of this board book consist of layers of cut-out cardboard that replicate a beehive suspended from a tree.
As readers flip the pages and delve into the workings of the hive, the hive grows longer and longer.
Pictured on the fronts of the cut-out pages are friendly-faced bees at work. There are captions such as “nurse” or “royal jelly” beside the bees. The words are defined in colorful text boxes on the reverse sides of the pages.
The full-size hive page is followed by three additional pages of fun facts about bees. Authors Petra Bartikova and Martin Sojdr wrap up with a section titled “Fruit? Yum!” that says it’s the pollinating bees that make our good veggies and fruits possible.
An excellent adjunct to gardening with children, this book has much to offer.
For the youngest, paging through the hive as the words are being read to them provides aural, tactile, and visual stimulation.
I wouldn’t hesitate to read this book with children older than what’s recommended below. Its pleasing arrangements of boxed text – and words like linden, black locust, hoverfly, drone, and larvae – make for an appealing elementary school vocabulary builder.
- Happy Fox Books
- 14 pages
- Dimensions: 8.8 x 0.7 x 8.9 inches
- Ages 2 to 4, grade pre-K
4. Dana Digs In
In “Dana Digs In,” a family dinner table conversation sparks a community gardening project spearheaded by enterprising Dana, a middle schooler convinced that there have to be vegetables that taste better than the bland store-bought tomatoes in her salad.
Told completely in dialogue word bubbles like you might see in a comic book, Laura Pedersen’s colorfully illustrated picture book features adults who support Dana’s endeavors, and contribute to her success. The story comes full circle with a dinner featuring homegrown veggies.
In addition to the ages listed below, this book would make an excellent springboard for gardening with upper elementary and middle school age kids.
Dana is a relatable character, and references to starting seeds indoors to get a jump on the growing season, composting, weeding, succession planting, and community gardening lay the groundwork for a serious look at food security.
- 41 pages
- Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.1 x 6 inches
- Ages 3 to 8, grades pre-K to 3
5. Farmer Bear’s Garden
Join Big Bear and Little Bear as they plant and tend a garden loaded with fruits, vegetables, and sunflowers.
This is a cozy read with cute drawings rendered in soothing shades of colored pencil. Kids will enjoy spotting details like a butterfly, squirrel, and praying mantis.
The joy of the first sprout, sharing the harvest with animal neighbors, and a festive dinner prepared by Momma Bear introduce young children to gardening at its best in this charming picture book by author Chris Magee.
- 31 pages
- Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.1 x 8.5 inches
- Ages 3 to 8, grades K to 3
6. Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood
This is the true story of Harlem Grown, a community garden started in 2010 by the author, Tony Hillery.
A regular guy with time on his hands after an economic downturn, he became a volunteer at PS 175, an inner-city school in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City.
Hillery envisioned the vacant lot across from the school as a means to address the restless, often troublesome behavior of kids with no art or gym classes available, living in a neighborhood with no healthy food stores.
Today, Harlem Grown grows and distributes thousands of pounds of free produce to neighborhood residents each year.
Follow Neveah through her neighborhood and into school where she meets Mr. Tony, and embarks on a gardening adventure that not only nourishes, but beautifies her neighborhood.
Detailed watercolor images depict bustling city life and all aspects of starting and maintaining a garden.
When some plants fail to thrive, Mr. Tony tells Neveah, “We’ll try again,” and introduces raised beds that sustain a host of fruits and veggies for the kids to take home.
Included are the author’s own story, and a section called “Start a Garden Anywhere” that instructs children in starting with some seeds and soil from the local hardware store. A helpful resources list completes this enlightening picture book.
- A Paula Wiseman Book
- 40 pages
- Dimensions: 11 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
- Ages 4 to 8, grades pre-K to 3
7. In the Garden
Not your ordinary picture book in either content or format, this outstanding choice introduces gardening in a fun way that is so descriptive, it would make an excellent supplement to an elementary school earth science curriculum.
At their first glimpse of this oversized book by Emma Guiliani, children will want to lay it on the floor, open it wide, and stretch out to look at its bold graphic illustrations. Inside they’ll join Plum and her brother Robin, for a year of gardening through the seasons.
The carefully wrought details of flora and fauna in this slim volume introduce intriguing material, like the catkins of hazel shrubs in late winter, the gastropods who feed on the young shoots of spring, and the earwigs that are invited to spend the winter in a “five-star hotel for insects.”
Discovery flaps offer children the ability to physically interact with the pages, as they learn about mulch, compost, bulbs, seeds, fruits, and more.
From the parts of a flower to the inside of a squash, they’ll develop a gardening vocabulary that includes words like “petiole” and “peduncle.”
With tips for deterring aphids and rabbits, and making cuttings to propagate plants, grown-ups will learn new things, too.
- Princeton Architectural Press
- 16 pages
- Dimensions: 11.6 x 0.6 x 16.2 inches
- Ages 8 to 12, grades 3 to 7
8. Let’s Get Gardening: 30 Easy Gardening Projects for Children
This how-to book from DK provides step-by-step activities for parents to do with their children.
Color photos, materials lists, and concise instructions make for a very visually appealing, user-friendly format.
The book starts with bites of text that describe the attributes of an “eco-friendly gardener,” followed by an introduction to plants and a list of optional garden and craft tools.
Following are three main sections: “Kitchen,” “Wildlife,” and “Recycled.” Each contains an informative introduction and relevant projects.
Fun kitchen section activities include growing corn in a laundry basket, and potatoes in a burlap sack.
In the wildlife section, children learn how to attract, shelter, and feed garden wildlife with projects such as a “wildlife hedge” and “mini nature preserve.”
And in the recycled group of activities, kids discover how to upcycle ordinary items to use as containers.
With parental guidance, children can complete 30 projects and learn about topics ranging from growing blueberries to creating a pond. Most planting is done in containers.
An excellent glossary for vocabulary building and a useful index for quick reference are included.
In addition to the ages listed below, I think the projects in this book would also be fun and educational for older elementary and middle school children.
- DK Children
- 128 pages
- Dimensions: 9.2 x 0.7 x 11.3 inches
- Ages 5 to 8, grades K to 3
9. Nature Play Workshop for Families: A Guide to 40+ Outdoor Learning Experiences in All Seasons
Parents are sure to find this guide useful in creating opportunities for nature play, an essential component of a child’s education.
Its two overriding themes embrace the ideas that children have “many modes of expression and response to natural phenomena,” and that “nature’s abundance” is something to be celebrated.
Planned experiences that allow children to be out in nature with a sense of adventure and self-discovery are paired with corresponding “sensory-rich” activities in this well-organized text with color photos from Monica Wiedel-Lubinski and Karen Madigan.
Advice on preparing for nature education precedes the six chapters of the book.
There are four season chapters. Each opens with a poem, and provides a fun model for emergent and proficient writers to craft their own.
In the summer chapter, children enjoy experiences such as making a sundial, foraging for berries, and planting pole beans.
In fall, they interact with seeds and leaves, and make fresh pumpkin-apple soup.
When winter comes, there are bare-branched trees to observe, and pine needle pillows to craft.
Spring brings seed planting, and an examination of mushrooms, moss, and birds’ nests, as well as wild violet jam.
A chapter on year-round activities with found materials like sticks and rocks follows, as well as guidance on keeping observation records and journals of nature experiences.
Next is “Voices from the Field,” in which teachers share their nature-ed experiences.
The final chapter, “Templates,” contains pages such as a “Natural Events Calendar” and “Seedling Growth Chart” to be used as desired.
This book would make an excellent guide for a nature-based curriculum for students at home or in school. Most activities can be enjoyed in the backyard, school yard, or community space. There are several recipes that require a kitchen.
- Quarry Books
- 144 pages
- Dimensions: 8.8 x 0.5 x 10.2 inches
- Ages 8 to 12, grades 3 to 7
10. The Little Gardener: Helping Children Connect with the Natural World
In “The Little Gardener,” author Julie Cerny states, “Gardening creates ecological literacy – a working knowledge of how ecological systems support all life on this planet.”
And with this knowledge, children are “… better equipped to handle the salient environmental issues we face.”
She lets “Big Gardeners” know that “… a garden can live in a bucket,” so don’t be afraid you don’t have enough space to garden with your “Little Gardeners.”
This is a text-rich book with diminutive dimensions and illustrative sketches in which Cerny reminisces and draws from her experience as an outdoor educator to frame a 10-chapter gardening journey.
To use it to best advantage, adults should start from the beginning and read each chapter through, before engaging children in the process.
Readers are invited to refer to a supplemental section, “Teaching & Learning in Your Garden,” before beginning to work with children, for guidance in shaping a meaningful learning experience.
Three main sections include: “Dreaming in Your Garden,” “Crafting Your Garden,” and “Growing Your Garden.”
With journal writing prompts, suggested reading, and thought-provoking questions and activities, big and little gardeners enjoy enriching garden-related experiences that include: formulating a mission statement, setting and clarifying goals, mapping, observing and recording, designing, understanding ecosystems, planning for succession planting, caretaking, harvesting, experimenting, and exploring.
A resources section lists companion plants for vegetables, as well as supply sources.
This conceptual guide to creating “cultivated ecosystems” has broad appeal for homesteaders, homeschoolers, outdoor educators, and all child caregivers who endeavor to instill a positive sense of the natural world, its ability to sustain us, and our responsibility for its care, in the children they love.
- Princeton Architectural Press
- 224 pages
- Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
- Youth of all ages
11. The Unplugged Family Activity Book: 60+ Simple Crafts & Recipes for Year-Round Fun
Take a break from the technology-driven world with “The Unplugged Family Activity Book,” and discover the wonders of each season with fun and educational activities to enjoy in the backyard, kitchen, and community.
The book opens with advice on steering the family away from individual devices and toward shared low-tech experiences.
Then it moves right into the four seasons, with an introduction to each followed by seasonally appropriate activities. Color photos are appealing to the eye, and the format is easy to follow.
Welcome spring by forcing branches indoors, spotting seasonal signs, helping birds collect nesting material, and foraging for a wild salad.
Transition to the warm days of summer by learning about pest-eating dragonflies, making homemade berry ice cream, and exploring natural surroundings with a pack full of discovery tools.
In fall, turn apples into sauce, make acorn and leaf crafts, plant bulbs for spring, and savor the cool evening air with candle-lit walks and campouts. An attitude of gratitude for the harvest is fostered.
When winter comes, there’s still fun to be had with stargazing, and making beeswax candles and pinecone bird feeders.
Following the seasonal activities are a list of recommended reading and an index for quick reference.
The recipes for garden fresh treats may spark an interest in growing edibles like herbs and berries, or in the keeping of honeybees, whether in the backyard or in the larger community.
Unplug for a while and let this book from Rachel Jepson Wolf guide you and your family into a deeper appreciation of nature’s bounty.
- Fair Winds Press
- 144 pages
- Dimensions: 8.6 x 0.5 x 11 inches
- Ages 8 to 12, grades 3 to 7
One of the many hats I’ve worn over the years is co-owner of a children’s book business. I helped run a shop and conduct school book fairs with my “I don’t want to retire yet” husband.
It’s still a pleasure to glean the cream from a new crop of books, especially those that are garden-themed, and I’m happy to be able to present these to you.
With 11 books to choose from, you have the tools available to foster an appreciation of the garden as a place where food grows, wildlife lives, and beauty surrounds all who enter.
Plan ahead so things go smoothly. Start small. Try a project yourself before getting the kids involved. Whether you garden in the kitchen, backyard, or a community space makes no difference. Just get growing!
A gardening journal would also make an excellent companion to the books included here.
What are some of your favorite gardening books for kids? Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments, and feel free to share photos of the projects that you’ve completed together – we love hearing from you!
And for more inspiration on gardening projects to do with the kids, try these guides next:
- Getting Kids Started with Vegetable Gardening
- Designing a Child’s Garden
- Growing Avocado Seeds: A Fun Project to Do with the Kids
© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via Cool Springs Press, DK Children, Fair Winds Press, Farmer Bear’s Garden, Happy Fox Books, Laura Pedersen Books, Paula Wiseman, Princeton Architectural Press, and Quarry Books. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.
About Nan Schiller
Nan Schiller is a writer with deep roots in the soil of southeastern Pennsylvania. Her background includes landscape and floral design, a BS in business from Villanova University, and a Certificate of Merit in floral design from Longwood Gardens. An advocate of organic gardening with native plants, she’s always got dirt under her nails and freckles on her nose. With wit and hopefully some wisdom, she shares what she’s learned and is always ready to dig into a new project!