School gardening programmes are among the most promising interventions to improve children’s vegetable intake. Yet, low vegetable intake among children remains a persistent public health challenge. This study aimed to explore children’s perspectives, experiences, and motivations concerning school gardening in order to better understand and increase its potential for health promotion. Using participant observation and semi-structured interviews, we provided 45 primary schoolchildren (9–10 years) from Amsterdam, who participated in a comprehensive year-round school gardening programme, the opportunity to share their experiences and ideas on school gardening. Children particularly expressed enjoyment of the outdoor gardening portion of the programme as it enabled them to be physically active and independently nurture their gardens. Harvesting was the children’s favourite activity, followed by planting and sowing. In contrast, insufficient gardening time and long explanations or instructions were especially disliked. Experiencing fun and enjoyment appeared to play a vital role in children’s motivation to actively participate. Children’s suggestions for programme improvements included more autonomy and opportunities for experimentation, and competition elements to increase fun and variety. Our results indicate that gaining insight into children’s perspectives allows matching school gardening programmes more to children’s wishes and expectations, thereby potentially enhancing their intrinsic motivation for gardening and vegetable consumption.
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