The best books for toddlers and preschoolers on how & why to grow a food garden

Who am I?

When offered a plot at the community garden, I thought it would be fun to invite other families to learn to grow food together. As a science teacher, I knew that for toddlers, digging in the dirt and growing plants for food could plant seeds for a life-long love of exploring nature, hands-on science inquiry, environmental stewardship, and joy in healthy eating. As we gardened, I noticed what questions children and their parents had, and how we found the answers together. I wrote the picture book How to Say Hello to A Worm: A First Guide to Outside to inspire more kids and their parents to get their hands dirty. 

I wrote...

How to Say Hello to a Worm: A First Guide to Outside

By Kari Percival,

Book cover of How to Say Hello to a Worm: A First Guide to Outside

What is my book about?

If you want to learn to garden, where do you start? In this picture book, How to Say Hello to a Worm: A First Guide to Outside, toddlers and preschoolers model joyful first steps. While visiting a community garden, these tiniest teachers share tips such as how to plant peas, how to build a twig trellis, how to know which strawberries are ready to pick and eat, and how to navigate an encounter with a bee. These small scientists observe cause and effect, ask questions, and explore the dirt to find their own answers. Readers will feel empowered to grow food plants and learn from each other as the growing season unfolds to a joyful harvest.

The books I picked & why

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Growing Vegetable Soup

By Lois Ehlert,

Book cover of Growing Vegetable Soup

Why this book?

What is the point of gardening? Why all this digging around in the dirt? Lois Ehlert's Growing Vegetable Soup brings us through the steps and meaning of growing food, right up to the point: the empowering and delicious pay-off moment of making soup and eating it. But check out all her books on the theme. Ehlert's bright colors and shapes make an irresistible read, perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. 

What Will Grow?

By Jennifer Ward, Susie Ghahremani (illustrator),

Book cover of What Will Grow?

Why this book?

What Will Grow? makes a game out of observing and guessing the identities of seeds and sprouting plants: preschoolers get to guess based on observing picture clues and hearing rhyming riddles before lifting the flaps to reveal each answer. This book builds connections between the stage of garden plants' development and also provides practice in building science skills. 

Secrets of the Vegetable Garden

By Carron Brown,

Book cover of Secrets of the Vegetable Garden

Why this book?

​When I was very small, planting peas in the garden with my grandfather, I felt like a sorcerer's apprentice being initiated into a realm of magic. Carron Brown's Secrets of the Vegetable Garden brings me back to that age of wonder by setting up mysteries to solve. Holding pages up to the sunlight reveals the answers to mysteries and riddles, and shows us what is secretly happening: potatoes growing under the earth, or seeds forming inside a fruit.

The Talking Vegetables

By Won-Ldy Paye, Margaret H. Lippert, Julie Paschkis (illustrator)

Book cover of The Talking Vegetables

Why this book?

Why garden at all? Isn't it a lot of work? I can always count on The Talking Vegetables, a retelling of a traditional African story, to delight toddlers and preschoolers. They revel in Spider's laziness as he shirks helping neighbors grow food at the community garden, and are just as delighted when he gets his comeuppance as the insulted vegetables refuse to let him get away without contributing to the team effort.

Pancakes, Pancakes!

By Eric Carle,

Book cover of Pancakes, Pancakes!

Why this book?

My toddlers loved Eric Carle's Pancakes, Pancakes! – and enjoyed hearing it over and over. Enticed into the story by Eric Carle's vivid and lively illustrations, you'll follow Jack as he asks his mom for pancakes for breakfast, then goes on an out-sized quest for all the ingredients from all over the farm and countryside. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in toddlers, folklore, and soup?

5,810 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about toddlers, folklore, and soup.

Toddlers Explore 29 books about toddlers
Folklore Explore 170 books about folklore
Soup Explore 9 books about soup

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Understanding Toddlers & Twos, Potty Patrol (Paw Patrol), and This Old Dog if you like this list.