Bringing up an urban baby doesn’t have to mean your kids’ lives are devoid of nature. Don’t let your little city dwellers miss out on the simple pleasure of getting their hands dirty in a garden and watching seeds grow into plants, flowers and food. We’ve found gardening classes and volunteer opportunities that’ll give your kids an introduction to planting, weeding and growing their own food.

BBG - Photo by Ashley Gamell

Classes


Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Children aged 2 to 17 have been enjoying learning about gardening at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Children Garden since 1914. This is a beautiful space where kids can learn about growing flowers, vegetables and herbs, planting and harvesting under the guidance of garden instructors. Classes are held for kids age two and up starting with a Trees & Saplings class you’ll take with your little one. Expect to sing songs, create nature crafts, taste new foods and tend to garden plots. Older kids can go to the drop-off class Seeds – they’ll care for gardens, cook, craft and explore, or City Farmers – they’ll develop basic horticulture skills working on vegetable gardens. Be sure to register well in advance, as they fill up fast.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden
1000 Washington Avenue
Brooklyn, Ny
718-623-7220
Cost: 6-week session start at $150 for nonmembers

The New York Botanical Garden

New York Botanical Garden
Kids get to plant, tend and harvest fresh produce in the beautiful Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden. The Garden Sprouts program gives kids ages 3 to 5 an introduction to planting and harvesting – your kiddos will enjoy getting dirty as they dig for worms and make garden-related crafts. Sprouts must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, so you’ll get to explore the wonders of nature together. For kids ages 6 to 12, Garden Crafters classes involve kids planting a garden with vegetables, flowers and fresh herbs, and then learning to prepare delicious recipes using ingredients from their own garden plot.

The New York Botanical Garden
2900 Southern Boulevard
Bronx, Ny
718-817-8181
Cost: 6-week sessions start at $150 (including parking).

The Queens Botanical Garden
The HSBC Children’s Garden at Queens Botanical Garden runs classes all summer long for kids ages 5 to 12. Kiddos will love making salads using their spring vegetable plantings, baking cookies in a solar oven, learning about climate and environment, raising and releasing butterflies, planting delicious summer vegetables, sunning amok in scavenger hunts and building planters and terrariums. Classes run from one month to seven weeks duration. Register online.

The Queens Botanical Garden
43-50 Main Street
Queens, Ny 11355
718-886-3800
Cost: 4-week sessions start from $420 for nonmembers.

lefferts spring sprouts

Volunteer


Prospect Park’s Lefferts Historic House
Nestled in Prospect Park lies the Lefferts Historic House – a blast from the past with a sweet old-fashioned garden. Get a taste with their April program called Spring Sprouts. Drop in on a Thursday or Friday through April 28 from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm. You and your junior gardener will get the chance to help rotate and sift compost, then spread it in the plots to enrich the soil. Afterwards, you can make a small pot out of newspaper, fill it with soil and plant a seed in it to take home and enjoy the fruits of your labor for many months to come.

Prospect Park’s Lefferts Historic House
Children’s Corner of Prospect Park, inside the Willink entrance (intersection of Ocean and Flatbush Avenues and Empire Boulevard).
718-789-2822
Cost: $3 for adults, children 16 and under are free.
Online: prospectpark.org/visit/places/lefferts

MillionTreesNYC
Every spring, MillionTreesNYC heads up volunteer tree planting activities in and around New York City parks. Environmentally–minded New Yorkers – of all ages – can take park in the planting fun. Visit their calendar to find a tree planting event near you.
Cost: Free
Online: milliontreesnyc.org

Join a Community Garden


South Brooklyn Children’s Garden
Brooklynites rejoice, because a children’s community garden opened in 2012 in the Columbia Waterfront District. The South Brooklyn Children’s Garden was built to encourage the growing of fresh and healthy food by local families. Currently 35-families strong, the garden has plans to grow by adding chickens to the garden, as well as a dedicated space just for child members where they can take care of their own specific plants with identifying name markers. You’ll need to apply for membership to join the garden online, and each adult member must commit to three hours of gardening per month. Members must also join one committee: garden planning, fundraising, education, events/classes, décor/design or marketing/PR.

South Brooklyn Children’s Garden
204 Columbia Street, Brooklyn
Cost: Membership fee is $100 for families; $75 for individuals (a family membership includes one or two adults and their children, under 18). The money is used to buy everything needed to get the garden set up and growing.
Contact: Via email
Online: southbrooklynchildrensgarden.org

GreenThumb
The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation also runs community gardens – more than 500 of them across all five boroughs! The majority of GreenThumb gardens were derelict vacant lots renovated by volunteers, and now managed by neighborhood residents. Volunteers of all ages are welcome. Find your local community garden and volunteer your services online here.

Where do you go to get those little green thumbs dirty?

— Christine Knight

Photos courtesy of Ashley Gamell, The New York Botanical Garden and the Prospect Park Alliance.