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How to Make a Starter Garden with Your Toddler

Thank you Dixie® Cups for sponsoring this post.
Check out how versatile these 5 oz. multi-purpose cups are!

There are so many ways to spend time outdoors with your children! From barbecues to pool parties to bike rides, there’s no shortage of outside fun. But, have you thought about gardening? Growing a garden is a great activity to do with children! Not only is gardening an activity to entertain your little ones, but it can also be a great sensory and fine motor activity. 

From the feel of the dirt on their hands to the taste of homegrown vegetables, gardening engages all of the senses. And shoveling dirt, planting seeds, and watering plants are great fine motor activities that will have your child practice their hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity. Furthermore, gardening teaches children about the environment, gives them a sense of pride in their efforts, and introduces healthy foods – that they grew on their own!

Have I convinced you you need to plant a vegetable garden with your little one yet? 

Why a starter garden

So, now that I have convinced you to start a vegetable garden with your children, how do you do it? I recommend starting a starter garden! By doing a starter garden indoors, you increase your chances of having a successful and flourishing garden. If you’re starting before the spring season, you also get a head start on the weather rather than waiting for the last frost to pass before sowing seeds directly outside.

There are many ways you can start a starter garden, but we chose Dixie® multi-purpose 5 oz. cups. The 5 oz. size is so perfect for those tiny toddler hands to hold. And who doesn’t love a little sprouting leaf in the most adorable cup?!

While you may usually use Dixie® multi-purpose 5 oz. cups with your kids for mealtimes or for brushing their teeth, the small size and beautiful print inspires me to think of unconventional and versatile ways of using them, such as for a starter vegetable garden!

Materials

Pick out seeds

Involve your kids from the very beginning and have them help pick out seeds for your starter garden! Going to your local nursery and browsing their selection of seeds is part of the fun. Ask your little one what vegetables they like, which ones look tasty, or how they can cook them for meals. Doing this will give your child a sense of participation in the gardening process and may help with the buy-in when it’s time to eat them. ????????

Gather materials

Once you have your seeds picked out, it’s time to gather all of your materials. Trust me, you don’t want to leave your toddler alone with potting soil while you’re grabbing the seeds ????. I would suggest using a small tray to put your Dixie® multi-purpose 5 oz. cups on for easy transport and fast clean-up. 

Prep your Dixie® multi-purpose 5 oz. cups

The next step is to prep your Dixie® multi-purpose 5 oz. cups. To avoid drowning your baby plants, make small holes on the bottom of each cup for any excess water to drain. I used a knife to make four little slits. 

Now it’s time for your toddler to help! Fill each cup with potting soil using a spoon or small shovel, stopping about 1 inch from the top. Warning: this will get messy! But this is such a great sensory activity that helps your child develop their fine motor skills from scooping up dirt, crossing their midline, and pouring it into a different container. To make it a little easier to scoop, pour the potting soil from its original giant bag into a small bowl.

How to Make a Starter Garden with Your Toddler Dixie Cup Prep

Plant Your Seeds

Now that your cups are prepped, it’s time to plant your seeds! Read each seed packet for how deep they should be planted. Some of the small seeds can be sprinkled onto the surface while the larger ones will need to be buried. This can range from ¼ inch to a couple of inches. Use a finger or small stick to estimate the depth as it doesn’t have to be precise. Toddler fingers are perfect for this! Have your toddler place a few seeds in each hole. Younger toddlers may not have the fine motor skill for this and instead will dump a whole bunch of seeds all at once, but just scoop out the extra seeds, if you can. If anything, you’ll have extra insurance that something will sprout! Once all the seeds are in, cover lightly with potting soil. Press down gently. Again, toddler hands are the perfect size for the Dixie® multi-purpose 5 oz. cups

How to Make a Starter Garden with Your Toddler Dixie Cup Seeds

TIP: Use this opportunity to talk with your little one about the seeds: which ones are big seeds and which ones are small seeds and what shape each seed comes in. 

Label Your Dixie® multi-purpose 5 oz. cups

As you plant each seed, be sure to label each cup with what will grow. Otherwise, once all the cups are covered with soil, they will all look the same until little sprouts start to emerge!

We used mini clothespins to simply write each vegetable that we planted. These were the perfect size for our Dixie® multi-purpose 5 oz. cups. Other labeling ideas include popsicle sticks or upcycled wine corks with small skewers. 

How to Make a Starter Garden with Your Toddler Dixie Cup Label

Nurture Your Seedlings

Once your seeds are warm and comfy, let’s love on them! Little seedling roots need both air and water to thrive. Try to keep the soil moist, but not overly saturated with water or soggy. We use a spray bottle to lightly spray any time the soil starts looking dry. A spray bottle is also great practice for fine motor skills!

How to Make a Starter Garden with Your Toddler Dixie Cup Water

Place your cups with seedlings in a warm location, such as on top of the refrigerator or in the sun. Another option is to make a makeshift greenhouse by placing plastic wrap over your entire tray. This traps moisture and creates a greenhouse environment to nurture those seedlings.

Patience is a Virtue

Now, it’s time to wait for those seedlings to grow! Luckily, the Dixie® multi-purpose 5 oz. cups are so pretty to look at and their vintage design is a great reminder to be present in the moment. Check your plants every day for signs of growth! You’ll be surprised at how fast the seedlings emerge. Remy and I love checking our cups first thing in the morning and I cherish hearing his squeal of delight whenever a little leaf starts to sprout! ????

How to Make a Starter Garden with Your Toddler Dixie Cup Sprout

As soon as your seedlings sprout, place your cups in a bright location, such as a sunny window. Once the last frost has passed and your seedlings have grown enough, you can transplant them to your outdoor garden! And did you know that you don’t have to worry about handling the fragile seedling and moving it from the cup to the garden? You can transplant the entire thing – cup and all – right outside!

In just 1-2 more months, your toddler will be able to help harvest your home-grown vegetables and hopefully help you eat them too!


Gardening is a great activity you can do with your children year after year and I know we’ll be making it a tradition every spring/summer! A starter garden with Dixie® multi-purpose 5 oz. cups is the perfect way to get your kids involved with the gardening process right from the beginning. What vegetables will you plant in your starter garden?

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2 Comments

    1. Hi Christa! It was sooo much fun! We love watering our plants daily and seeing how much they have grown <3

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