How to get kids outdoors and gardening!

Do you have children more enamored with McDonalds than vegetables? How about children who spend most of their days indoors playing video games and watching TV? The truth is most kids today are spending more time indoors than outdoors. Children suffer from nature deficit disorder and as a result many children don’t know how to garden. But help is on the way with Steve & Emma Biggs’s book, Grow Gardeners.

Steve and Emma Biggs Grow Gardeners

Kid-tested gardening

Steve Biggs, an author and journalist specializing in gardening, farming and food production, teamed up with his nine-year-old daughter Emma, to write Grow Gardeners Kid-tested Gardening with Children: a 4 step approach. Steve decided to write a book to help parents encourage kids to play and have fun in the garden when he realized that his young daughter equated fun with McDonalds. As Steve put it, “so young…and already won over by corporate marketers.”

Emma Biggs and Steve Bigss

Emma Biggs and Steve Biggs


Steve and Emma’s book fills a growing need for parents wanting to give their children an appreciation of the outdoors and gardening. I really liked the book’s easy-to-understand concepts as well as the simple fun ideas that parents can use. I only wish it was longer book! Grow Gardeners is published by No Guff Press, 71 pp, glossy paperback, $14.95 (Cdn) + Shipping/Handling and you can purchase it at Grow Gardeners.


The book is organized into the four steps that encourage kids to go outdoors: Play, Explore, Collect and Grow. It’s an easy-to-read book with information organized into different coloured boxes. Delightful doodles and family photos are scattered throughout the book giving it a warm and intimate feel.


Steve Biggs kindly gave me permission to reprint an excerpt from his book. The play toolkit illustrates how useful this book is to parents wanting to show their children how much fun the outdoors, and ultimately, gardening can be.


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A toolkit for play

Play supplies abound in most gardens and need not be store-bought.

Leaves. In the fall, raked leaves are an invitation for jumping. Lettuce leaves from the veggie patch are great for pretend meals. As a kid, I used lilac leaves as currency; large leaves were worth more than small ones.


Sand. (Or sand substitutes.) When I ordered a load of limestone screening to make a patio, the kids liked it as much as sand. Once I used up the screenings, they found a pile of wood-chips equally fun. Anything that can be piled, scooped, ploughed, shaped for imaginary roadways, or added to soup-like mud concoctions is fun for play.


Soil. The toy dump trucks often visit our heap of extra soil. The soil pile also provides a steady supply of worms.


Sticks. “Don’t throw them out,” Quinn protested when he saw me bundling fallen branches. Sticks are perfect for stirring pails of mud. Laid out end to end, they also make excellent boundaries for games.


Garden tools. As I took a break from house renovations, I peered into the yard to see our babysitter, Shawn, spade in hand, beside a newly dug hole. The kids were delighted because the hole was deeper than the water table. With trowels, they excavated mud from the big, soupy hole. So much for the newly seeded grass…


Water. Kids don’t quickly outgrow water. On a recent stroll past a nearby middle school (grades 6, 7, and 8) I was amused to see a girl playfully stomping in a puddle while her friends chided her. “Taylor, get out of the puddle!” they said. She grinned and protested, “But I like the puddle!”


Real play means kids get wet, muddy, and sandy. Sometimes, as I watch my kids play I picture all of the laundry I’ll have to do later. Better laundry than a kid glued to a screen.


* * *


If you have difficulty getting your children outdoors, this is the book for you. Even if your children regularly go outside, this book will give you more ideas of outdoor activities. Please share the post on social media. Children (and parents) will benefit so much from this book.



What activities do your children like to do?
Leave a comment down below and your name will be put into a draw for Steve & Emma Biggs book, Grow Gardeners. Kid-tested Gardening with Children: a 4 step Approach.

The draw is on Friday, May 29 at 2:55 pm EST on #groundchat (on Twitter). Steve Biggs is guest hosting #groundchat, and he will be chatting about growing young gardeners. Join us on Twitter ( 2 pm EST to 3 pm EST) and share your experiences too.

Written by Cristina da Silva
Tuesday, May 26, 2015 in Book & Product Reviews

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  1. Jeavonna Chapman says:

    Tree plantings are always fun to do and to revisit.

  2. Carol Yemola says:

    My kids love to play outside especially at the pool or playground. They also have a small garden where I let them “plant” veggies. I am always amazed when something actually grows there! LOL

  3. Growing herbs with kids is fab because they are easy to grow and give a sensory experience. They can then use them in child friendly recipes and engage in healthy cooking. I am loving the sound of this book. Anything that promotes being outside and life long key skills is a winner.

  4. Ed Yemola says:

    Our kids like swim and play outdoor sports like baseball.

  5. Gardening with my grandchildren is the best fun! We plant seeds, we grow from cuttings and roots. We grow dozens of different herbs and harvest them. Two of them actually learned how to cut with scissors because of helping with herb gardening. We have a 3′ x 4′ Together Farm Garden (the ones that look like giant Lego) greens garden and a little 2’x 2′ one that has flowers. We have potato bags. They have their own tools. We plant trees and shrubs. And best of all they love to eat what we harvest. We even made it into a book called “How to Grow a Gardener” published by the Old Horts group in England. It’s fun but it’s also teaching them where food comes from and to appreciate real food. I am growing food warriors! I greatly admire the work you are doing.

  6. One more story: when I was little my parents had a huge garden. We lived out of town so stores and candy and pop were not on my horizon. Mom always told me I thought baby peas were “candy”. Apparently I liked them even better than strawberries. I think for my grandsons the strawberries are the best though. Or maybe Saskatoons fresh off the bush. They even eat lettuce voluntarily when they’ve grown it themselves. The first thing that came up in Connor’s garden this year was lettuce. He is over the moon! We also have more than a dozen sunflowers started for beauty and the birds. And he’s growing lupines to take bouquets to his Mama.

  7. Joanne Kaplan says:

    My 3 sons were master gardeners when it came to radishes. They are now young men who still enjoy veggies.

  8. The winner of draw is Laurel Hounslow, @LaurelHounslow. Congratulations, Laurel! Hope you enjoy Steven & Emma’s book.

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