The Little Gardener: Helping Children Connect With the Natural World — By Julie A. Cerny, Illustrations by Ysemay Dercon

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 "[Author Julie] Cerny spent 15 years as an outdoor educator, leading little ones to study ponds, hike mountains and play games that helped introduce the way natural systems work. Her background comes through on each of the 224 pages of this thoughtful book, which is very much needed in today's digital and fast-paced world....Cerny's insights into the importance of connecting with the outside world truly touched my heart. 'Gardening cultivates ecological literacy - a working knowledge of how ecological systems support all life on this planet. When we garden, it's easier to see ourselves as part of those systems and to experience firsthand how our choices affect our environment, for better or for worse.'"


"So, you've gotten your child stoked about eating produce and growing it, too. Congratulations! The only problem now is that you've never gardened in your life, and have no idea how to ensure a successful-and inspiring-experience for your tyke. This cheerful little reference tome helps you get started with heaps of practical how-tos about making the most of whatever space you've got, as well as tips about how long it takes to for those seeds to turn into something edible. It might just be the beginning of a tasty new calling."

— Sierra Magazine

"[The Little Gardener] extends a beautiful invitation to go outside and grow something together. It's written with both Big Gardeners and Little Gardeners in mind, sharing just the right amount of details to equip both for success without overwhelming those who are new to gardening....The Little Gardener is a how-to guide that invites families to enjoy and care for the natural world."

— Foreword Reviews

"As much as anything, The Little Gardener is a personal plea for reconnecting with nature for all that it can teach us. It is perfect for all of our back to school needs in science, math, ecology, nutrition and the ever important what it means to be intentionally human."

— The Cultivating Place

"The book travels from the earliest stages of visualizing a garden-to-be all the way through to harvesting home-grown food, with fun and fruitful lessons that teach garden-related subjects like art, math, writing, carpentry, and biology."
- Washington Gardener—-
"This conceptual guide to creating 'cultivated ecosystems' has broad appeal for homesteaders, homeschoolers, outdoor educators, and all child caregivers who endeavor to instill a positive sense of the natural world, its ability to sustain us, and our responsibility for its care, in the children they love."

— The Gardener's Path

"Why should students pursue gardening? It cultivates ecological literacy, which is vital for children understanding how ecological systems support all life on Earth and how our personal choices affect the environment. Cerny captures the child's imagination by asking them to envision their dream garden, then turns their visions into reality by setting goals for its creation....A comprehensive, fun, and colorful hands-on guide to gardening that will be enjoyable for children of all ages."

— Library Journal

From designing and planning to planting and harvesting, The Little Gardener offers parents, grandparents, caregivers, educators — anyone — with children in their lives clear project-based instructions on how to create a thriving garden. This lovely book is an an engaging, illustrated guide to help children explore the natural world through gardening.

Part how–to, part teaching tool, and part inspiration, The Little Gardener is a thoughtful combination of detailed instructions, tips, anecdotes, and seasonal activities designed to connect gardeners to natural systems. It also helps children about food, where it comes from and how it grows. 

With step-b-step guides for the Big Gardener and the Little Gardener, this book helps plan projects that will engage children with fun and creative activities. Its beautiful illustration, helpful charts, planning tools and engaging journal prompts are sure to inspire the next generation of nature's keepers.

The Little Gardener shows gardeners of all ages how to envision and build their garden together by making the process an adventure to be treasured, with much to learn along the way!


Format: New, hardcover

Published: March 10, 2020

Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press

ISBN: 9781616898601

Pages: 224

Dimensions: 8 inches L x 5.5 inches W x .85 inches D

Rating: ★★★★1/2


Julie A. Cerny is an educator, gardener, and aspiring homesteader living in New York's Hudson Valley. A longtime lover of food, flowers, trees, and the earth that grows them, she strives to live as an active member of the ecological systems that sustain her.

In her own words: "Of all of the experiences I’ve had working with children outdoors, gardening is where I’ve seen the most inspirational interactions between children and nature take place. When children are in gardens, sparks fly. As they cocreate with nature to grow food that nourishes them, children witness a direct connection between nature and their own wellbeing. They see that the natural world is made up of many natural systems engaging with each other and they see how they can affect those systems."

Ysemay Dercon is an artist and illustrator with an interest in science and wildlife conservation. She received her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design.