Plant a Garden

Children will learn that living things need air, food, and water.

Lesson Objective

Children will plant and care for an outdoor garden and learn that all living things need air, food, and water to survive.


What You'll Need

Note: This is an ongoing project and will require regular watering and weeding to maintain the garden.

  • Outdoor garden space (see Lesson Tips)
  • Packs of colorful plant seeds or seedlings such as the following (see Lesson Tips):
    • Red or pink (check seed packs to determine color) – dianthus, petunia, verbena, zinnia
    • Yellow or orange – calendula, marigold, zinnia
    • Green – mint, basil, or parsley
    • Blue or purple (check seed packs to determine color) – dianthus, petunia, verbena, zinnia
  • Small spades – 1 per child
  • Watering cans

What To Do

  1. Ask the children to name the things that they, as human beings, need in order to grow (e.g., food, water, air, safe place to live).
  2. Take the children outside (or look out the window), and discuss the living things that are growing outside.
  3. Ask the children what they think these things need to grow (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  4. Display the seed packs or seedlings, and ask the children where they think a good place would be for these plants to grow.
  5. Tell the children that they are going to plant the seeds (or seedlings) in a garden and learn about caring for living things.
  6. Take the children outside to the designated area (see Lesson Tips).
  7. If planting seeds, have the children dig narrow troughs in the soil in parallel rows about 1"–2" deep.
  8. If planting seedlings, have the children dig a hole that is twice the size of the plant container. Do this for each plant.
  9. Help the children place the seeds about 1" apart in the soil trough and carefully cover the seeds with soil. If planting seedlings, carefully remove them from their containers and place each one in a hole (see Lesson Tips).
  10. Discuss the needs of the plants and what the children will need to do to care for their garden (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  11. Water the plants or seeds daily. Sprouts from seeds should emerge in 10–14 days.
  12. Visit the garden site daily, and have the children observe the changes.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Tell me the things that you as a human being need to grow.
  • Tell me some things that you see growing outside.
  • Tell me what you think other living things need to grow.
  • Explain what is the same about what you need and what other living things need.
  • Describe what you can do to take care of your garden.
  • Describe how the garden has changed.

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • You could have the children keep journals about their garden. Give children sheets of plain paper, pencils, and crayons to draw pictures of the garden. They could document changes over time. For instance, they could draw pictures on the day of planting, once the seedlings emerge, when buds appear on the stems, and when the flowers bloom. Date the drawings to follow the progression of the changes over time.
  • Vegetable plants can be planted in place of or in addition to the flowers. Many vegetable plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and pumpkins flower before the vegetables appear on the stems. The vegetables can be cared for, harvested, and eaten.
  • This lesson could be extended to a study on the life cycle of plants.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Could children name food, water, air, and a safe place to live as the things that they, as human beings, need to grow?
  • Could children name living things growing outside?
  • Could children state that living things need food, water, air, and a safe place to live?
  • Could children explain that all living things need the same things to survive?
  • Could children describe watering and weeding as what they will need to do to take care of their garden?
  • Could children describe the changes in their garden?


Did You Know?

Planting and caring for a garden can be a richly rewarding outdoor experience for children. Just by being outside, children’s senses are awakened as they see, smell, touch, and hear the natural environment around them. The exposure to Earth, water, air, and other living things paves the way for children to appreciate and learn from nature.

In planting and watching food grow, children learn that many of our foods come from the Earth, even though we purchase them from the grocery store. Children learn how important water is for plant growth and how seeds grow and change. Children will discover how all living things have the same basic needs—food, water, air, and a safe place to live.

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • living – a state of being alive.
  • garden – an area of ground used for growing vegetables or flowers.
  • plant – a living thing that has leaves, makes its own food, and has roots that usually grow in the Earth.
  • seed – the small part of a plant that has flowers and that grows into a new plant.
  • seedling – a young tree or plant grown from a seed.
  • care – to watch over or protect.

Lesson Tips

  • Alert parents that the children will be planting outside so that children can dress appropriately.
  • Ask your center director to designate an area for your garden. You could get parents involved by asking them to assist with preparing the garden area. Parents could dig an edge around the garden; place fencing around the perimeter; and rake, turn, and weed the soil before planting.
  • If you do not have an outdoor area for planting, consider asking a parent to help build a large planter made from wood. Fill the planter with topsoil or potting soil, and proceed as in What To Do above. Alternatively, plants can be grown in pots.
  • You may want to engage parent helpers for the planting and also for the continued watering and weeding.
  • Seed packets or established seedlings can be purchased inexpensively at garden and home centers.
  • If desired, some vegetables could be planted near the flowers. The children can help care for the vegetable plants and then harvest and eat the vegetables.


  • Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert
  • The Gardener by Sarah Stewart
  • Jack’s Garden by Henry Cole
  • Lola Plants a Garden by Anna McQuinn

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

While we believe that the books and resources recommended may be of value to you, keep in mind that these are suggestions only and you must do your own due diligence to determine whether the materials are appropriate and suitable for your use. PNC has no sponsorship or endorsement agreement with the authors or publishers of the materials listed.

Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS