Gardening with children is a great way to introduce them to nature and for them to interact and learn about the environment around them. During the holidays it can also be a fun free way of entertaining them. Here are our top tips on how to encourage your children to garden and make those little fingers green.
Get the Kids Involved in the garden
Children can often see gardening as a boring chore that something only Mum and Dad or Grandparents do. By including them from the outset with the planning, kids will feel more involved in the process and all the more eager to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty (although from my experience this is generally not a problem) when it’s time to start the planting.
Ask your children to pick out what flowers and plants they like the look of when you browse through catalogues or when you are at the garden centre and what the colour scheme should be.
Grow their favourite fruits or vegetables so that they can see where their food comes from and the journey from ground to plate.
Give the children Their Own Plot
If space in your garden permits give the kids their own patch of ground to tend. This can range from a raised bed, a part of a bed or border or just a couple of containers or planters. The size of the space is not overly important as long as there is room for a few different variety of plants to be grown and it’s somewhere they can take ownership of.
Ensure the area is easily accessible and that growing conditions are good. Section off the area with a homemade sign that will transform the area into your child’s own special plot of nature that they will want to keep coming back to.
Let Them Do It Themselves
Give children the freedom to look after their own plot. If they are just watching what you are doing boredom will quickly set in and they will likely be distracted by something much more demanding of their attention that’s probably far less constructive.
Give them hands on tasks to do based on their age and ability such as watering, digging holes, sowing seeds or pulling up weeds. And eventually, who knows, they may even take over mowing the lawn one day!
Work together as a team and explain the job as you go, showing them what to do before handing over the reins.
Make It Fun
Above all else make being out in the garden enjoyable. Children can be notoriously impatient and instant results will be needed to maintain interest. So those biennial Sweet Williams sown last year that are now flowering, may not be the best thing to start with.
Keep things simple to start with by planting easy to care for and quick growing varieties of vegetables such as carrots, radishes and lettuces. Peas and beans have large seeds that are easy for little fingers to handle.
Have growing competitions to see who can grow the tallest sunflower or the biggest pumpkin.
Go on a nature hunt around the garden to search for insects and where they hide. Keep count of the number of ladybugs, butterflies, caterpillars and other wildlife you come across and make a chart.
There are no set rules when it comes to gardening, we all have our own little strange ways. So if your child decides that they want to sow seeds in a haphazard wavy line and not the recommended straight line that you suggested, let them.
Give your child full control over the look of their space and where they want to plant things, just be there to guide them and lend a helping hand. If your child is fully invested in the design of their plot, they will be more inclined to come back to it.
There will be times when inevitably a plant may not survive or seeds don’t germinate, but don’t let this put them off. Make an experiment out of any failures that your child can learn from and ask them why they think the plant or seeds didn’t grow; was it given too much water or not enough? Sown to deeply or not deep enough? Repeat the process and do the opposite to see if the end results are different.
When it comes to gardening there are no mistakes, only lessons to be learnt.
Keep It Going When You Can’t Get Out In the Garden
There will be times when getting out in the garden just isn’t possible thanks to our unpredictable British weather. Use this time to perform other gardening related tasks in preparation for when the weather is fairer.
Create a scrapbook to record and chart the growth of the garden that can be filled with drawings, packets of seeds that have been sown, photos of the plants as they grow and ideas and pictures from catalogues of what they would like to grow next.
Make seed bombs to transform that unused patch of ground into a flowering meadow, read our How to make a seed bomb here .
Create brightly coloured plant labels from lollipop sticks or a sign that will personalise their plot.
All of these things can be done to keep the idea of gardening in their mind and making it fun so that when the sun is shining again they will be eager to get back out into the garden.