Toddlers love gardening, probably because it involves digging around in mud and splashing water about! It's a great activity to encourage young children to spend time outdoors, and also introduces some early science education as you track the progress from seed to plant. It's also an introduction to healthy eating habits, as children will be curious to taste the produce that they have grown.
Even if you don't have a garden, you can still grow many things indoors on a sunny windowsill. We have a little Kitchen Garden Herb Kit on our kitchen windowsill and it works really well. With this kit you can grow basil, parsley, chives and coriander, all of which are frequently used in cooking. The seeds start to grow within a day or two, and because they grow so quickly a child won't get bored waiting for something to happen.
A classic flower to grow with young children is the sunflower. You can buy some lovely Sunflower Growing Kits or else just buy a large pack of sunflower seeds (being sure to buy ones for growing, not eating!) and plant them yourself either in a pot outdoors or straight into the flowerbed. Plant several in case some of the seeds don't germinate, and make sure that they are a short distance apart from each other so that they have room to grow. Once the shoot has appeared, use a notebook to track their height, perhaps hosting an informal competition between siblings or friends!
You can also buy simple packets of mixed flower seeds and just let the toddler sprinkle them around your flowerbeds. With regular watering you should soon have a mixture of different, pretty flowers to admire and perhaps even pick to decorate the house.
If you want to grow your own vegetables, try something easy to start with. We have had great success with tomatoes. Start the seeds off indoors and move them outdoors once it has warmed up. Follow the instructions on the packet, and make sure to remove the side shoots as they grow so that you end up with a nice strong plant. It's a good idea to invest in a good book with instructions for growing different types of fruits and vegetables, or you can also find lots of useful information on the BBC Gardening website.
Finally, a great way to encourage your toddler to help with the gardening is to buy them their own set of gardening tools. You can find some lovely sets which contain garden equipment just the right size for little hands, much easier and more inviting for them to use than adult tools.
Have fun enjoying the garden with your toddler!