I was at the grocery store today, and I came upon a prominent display of gardening kits geared toward kids. The Backyardigans, Dora the Explorer, and Curious George are now in the gardening business.

I’m divided on how I feel about this. One the one hand, it’s a clear sign that gardening is mainstream right now. That’s good. Nickelodeon and PBS would not be hocking gardening kits if they didn’t think they would sell. So in one way, it’s a good thing. It could get some children that would otherwise not be interested in gardening started on a hobby that could last.

On the other hand, I just wanted to cringe. More and more I am appalled at the marketing that is geared toward our children and the parents who give in to the children and the marketers. My friend Derek Markham wrote a piece last week on Natural Papa about marketers who are giving swag to children who are as young as seven in return for their social media comments about the products. Seven!

These kits cost quite a bit more than if you were starting with a pack of seeds and planters created from old yogurt cups or other waste.

Backyardigans' Backyard Vegetables Terrarium Kits – These are kind of cute, but each one costs between $3 and $4 on various online sites. You could easily make one of these, minus the Backyardigans of course, from an old plastic container and the cut off top of a plastic soda bottle. So you’re really paying a couple of dollar extra for pictures of cartoon characters.

Dora the Explorer Fairy Wonderland Garden – This kit, which costs about $15 online, has two plants that will, get this, attract fairies. It also takes a year for the plants to flower. By the time the plants flower, the child who planted it will have grown bored of it and possibly outgrown Dora.

Curious George’s Outrageous Farm – For about $25, you can grow catnip for the farm cat, wheat grass for the cows, and tasty tomatoes (I suppose for the humans). There are little plastic barnyard animals that you can place inside the terrarium and watch them do absolutely nothing as the plants sprout and grow. At least this one says it grows quickly.

Carnivorous Creations – Okay, this one I could possibly consider getting for my boys – ages 7 and 10 – if they were interested. It doesn’t have a TV tie-in. For $25, it grows over 10 varieties of carnivorous plants like Venus Fly Trap and Cobra Lillies. The box says that the plants really eat bugs. That could be cool.

I’m all for getting kids’ hands in the dirt and teaching them how to grow their own food and other plants. But, I’ve been able to do that already without the help of Dora or Curious George. Do we really need to use cartoon characters to get our kids interested in even basic things like digging in the dirt? Doesn’t that come naturally to a child?

What do you think? Is this shameless marketing to children or a good idea? 

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Children's garden kits with TV tie-ins
Shameless marketing to kids or good idea? The Backyardigans, Dora the Explorer, and Curious George are now in the gardening business.