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Photo of a young girl with long hair and braided headband using a Rutabaga Garden Tool scoop to dig in some fresh soil.

Why the Quality of Children's Garden Tools Matters

Over the course of seven years, I co-ran a gardening program at my sons' elementary school. This involved creating comprehensive lesson plans (the precursor to the Rutabaga Education Curriculum), managing the planting and harvesting activities, and procuring supplies for over 500 children and 50 dedicated parent volunteers. About twice a year, I'd have the additional task of replacing garden tools.

Season after season, I noticed various degrees of standards in material and design within the garden tool industry. I saw firsthand how the kids used and treated the tools, and it made me realize that the quality of your child's garden tools matters. I learned that buying poor quality and inexpensive tools did not pay off in the long run regarding safety, durability, and a child's overall growing experience.

Three images of garden tools with rusted metal and splintered handles.

First, let's talk about safety and the materials you may want to avoid.

Stainless Steel: Unless you're incredibly diligent about keeping your tools in a dry environment when not in use, these will rust. Even when they say they won't.

Cast Aluminum: This material contains lead. If you purchase tools made with this material, kids must wash their hands after they use them.

Wooden Handles: Once again, these can stay intact if you keep them dry and inside when not in use, but for us, it only takes one season before they splinter.

Cheap Plastic: It's important to know what type of plastic your tools are made of. Many plastics contain lead and BPA, which are not ideal for contact with small children or the soil that feeds your crops.

Furthermore, I discovered the crucial role of durability in garden tools. Many tools designed for children were crafted from thin metal or plastic, which proved to be insufficient. These tools would often bend or snap when children dug deep into the soil or attempted to remove a stubborn weed. They become a burden of waste and finances, requiring frequent replacement.

Last, our goal in growing food with children is to instill a positive overall growing experience. Quality garden tools teach children to work with their hands and limit frustration. Kids feel more confident and capable with tools that help them complete garden tasks successfully and safely. Investing in quality tools also instills a sense of ownership over the materials that help them grow. 

Adults and children planting flowers with Rutabaga Garden Tools.

 For all these reasons and more, I spent five years developing the Rutabaga Garden Tools, which the whole family can use comfortably and consciously (made from polypropylene, which is food-grade safe and BPA-free), season after season. Learn more about these eco-friendly and inspiring tools here!

The four Rutabaga Garden Tools, a scoop, weed remover, hand rake, and trowel, stored in a wire basket next to seed starting pots. The blue colored tools are made from recycled end of life marine rope.

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