For most kids, simply saying the words “Let’s play in the dirt” will be enough of an invitation into the world of gardening. And of course, Inhabitots has recently brought you posts on starting a vegetable garden, building a raised garden bed, and getting your kids excited about the growing process. For those tots that still seem a little hesitant about discovering their green thumb, we have gathered some books that will get the whole family excited about the great green world of gardening. We're happy to report that most of the books are either made from recycled paper or using eco-friendly inks (and some are both).
Best Gardening Books for Toddlers
For the littlest aspiring green thumbs, finding a book that is visually appealing is often enough to pass on the gardening bug. The following books are depicted with bright colors and simple themes and include lots of examples of fruits and vegetables.
My First Garden from Little Green Books is a great intro to gardening. Made of 100% recycled material, this basic book, which shows the growing process from seed all the way to vegetable soup, is accompanied by cute pictures of a mother and daughter hard at work and play in their garden. It comes with a carrying handle, perfect for tiny hands to take everywhere.
In the Garden is another basic gardening book from the popular Green Start series, which all use eco-friendly inks and are made from 98% post consumer recycled materials. In the Garden combines sweet, simple figures with a general enthusiasm about eating all sorts of fruits and veggies (as well as a few growing tips for parents). Great for beginners at both reading and gardening.
Best Books about Community Gardens
Gardening doesn’t have to be a single-family affair. Kids can learn volumes about gardening and about other cultures from participating in community gardens. These books showcase the fun and lessons learned when gardens grow beyond a family’s own backyard.
Our Community Garden by Barbara Pollack takes in San Francisco with a diverse cast of characters, all depicted in Pollack’s playful, color saturated style. Our Community Garden familiarizes readers with the basics of gardening-including jobs to do, tools to use, and insects to find. Each character grows something different to reflect his or her cultural heritage, and at the end of the growing season, they all come together for a celebratory potluck.
We Grew It, Let’s Eat It is told from the point of view of school-age twins Anne and Veda and includes photographs of the entire gardening process from planting seeds to cooking and baking with the food that they grew. Along the way, the girls learn patience, experience deer problems, and deal with getting dirty, all while living in Washington DC and becoming part of their community garden.
Best Gardening Books for City Dwellers
Several of the books we found will motivate even those living in a concrete jungle to dream about bringing some green into our lives and those around us through gardens.
The Curious Garden is an inspiring and empowering tale, especially for urban dwellers. A young boy named Liam, living in a grey, greenless city, stumbles upon a patch of dying plants and begins to care for them. Liam’s trial-and-error efforts take the reader throughout several seasons and show how Liam literally plants the seed for the city’s transformation. The Curious Garden touches on mature themes in an accessible way for children, showing them everything from the need for planning and learning about plants during the snowy, winter months to cultivating an appreciation for the simple pleasures that nature brings, such as walking barefoot in the grass or having a picnic.
Flower Garden is also good for lovers of city living. A young girl and her dad pick out flowers to make a window box for the girl’s mother, imparting the sweet message that gardens come in all shapes and sizes.
Best General Gardening Books for Kids
In My Garden, a little girl uses her imagination to grow all sorts of things, including jelly bean bushes, flowers that change colors and patterns, keys that grow like pole beans and even seashells. Kids will have a giggle at many of the girl’s dreams, such as chocolate rabbits (instead of the real kind who have been known to nibble her mother’s lettuce plants), sprouting umbrellas, and strawberries that glow in the dark. Creative and beautifully illustrated, this book may inspire as much dreaming in the garden as actual working. My Garden‘s pictures reflect a whimsical watercolor style, which adds to the fantastical feeling of the book.
Yucky Worms is all about, well, worms. A good book for kids who try to steer clear of those wiggly guys as well as for the budding wormologist. After finding a worm in his grandmother’s garden, an initially skeptical young boy learns how worms help the soil and highlights their numerous important roles in gardening. Parents may learn a thing or two as well.
Even if your family has no plans to start a garden, you can get the whole family into the farm-to-table groove with Nikki McClure’s To Market, To Market. Much beloved artist McClure, who specializes in the art of paper-cuts, takes readers on a trip to the farmer’s market, where people are selling everything from fruit and vegetables to cheese, baked goods, and salmon. McClure delves into the process that each farmer and vendor takes, making this book ideal for older kids, who are interested in the why and how of it all. After reading this book, with its creativity in putting a name to the people who make and grow our food, families will look forward to making regular outings to the farmer’s market nearest them. Printed on recycled paper.
Best Books to Inspire Even the Most Reluctant Gardeners
Is your little greenthumb still thumbing her nose at helping out? Here are a few more suggestions which might appeal to kids due to their vivid photographs or due to inspiration from an unlikely source.
National Geographic Kids books are wonderful for their vivid visuals and magazine-like quality. Their Picture the Seasons books are great for getting kids to learn about gardening and harvesting in a visual way. Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin, Pie looks in depth at how pumpkins are planted, grown, and eaten. The book also depicts ways in which various parts of the pumpkin are used, which could help start a conversation at your house about creative ways in which your gardening crop could be useful beyond the dinner table (such as decorations and art projects).
Apples for Everyone features a similar style and macro photos of nature at work. This basic info, paired with plentiful pictures, means that the books cover a wide range of reader ages and interests.
Olivia’s Birds: Saving the Gulf doesn’t focus on gardening but it does celebrate the natural world from a young person’s point of view and includes plentiful information on a variety of bird types. After seeing so many different types and species, kids will want to spend some time outside (maybe even in the garden) looking for nearby examples. They will be even more inspired by the girl behind the story: 11-year-old Olivia, who has raised over $175,000 to help birds in the Gulf following the recent oil spill. Olivia’s Birds supports the Audobon society and is printed on FSC-certified paper. If Olivia can make such a difference in the natural world, perhaps your little ones will be inspired to help out too!
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