With National Children’s Gardening Week next week from May 28 – June 5, coinciding with May half term, here’s our top tips on how to get your kids interested in gardening and easy gardening tasks for them to get stuck in to.
What better way to spend half-term and to celebrate National Children’s Gardening Week than by introducing all members of the family to the physically and mentally stimulating hobby of gardening?
How to Get Your Children Interested in Gardening
Getting your children interested in gardening is easy if you go about it the right way. The gardening experts at The Greenhouse People have shared their top tips for how to get kids interested in gardening.
Think big, start small
If you’re trying to get your child or children into gardening, it’s important to start small to make sure their first experience is a positive one. Whether in pots or borders, flowers can lift the most listless of gardens into a blooming haven, providing colour, perfume and an endless source of fascination.
Don’t overwhelm them with anything that takes a great deal of care or a lot of time to grow. Easy flowers which they can grow from seed include marigolds or dandelions. For wow factor, it’s hard to beat sunflowers, including unusual varieties such as Ruby Sunset and Teddy Bear. It’s best to sow seeds in pots of compost inside first, then replant in larger pots when they’re bigger.
Don’t attempt anything too ambitious to start with. Nasturtiums, sweet peas and cosmos are also fun and straightforward to grow with children.
Naturally, make sure you keep an eye on them to avoid any disasters, but letting children take ownership of looking after their plant is a great way to teach personal responsibility and boost their confidence.
Visit a garden
According to research, only 1 in 5 children have a “connection” with nature. So, it’s never been more important to start early and ignite a love of the great outdoors.
To get them inspired, why not plan a trip to one of the UK’s many beautiful gardens one weekend or during the school holidays?
From taking a leisurely stroll through the gardens which inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution at Down House in Kent, exploring the exotic greenhouses of Kew Gardens or Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden, to enjoying a natural play trail at Cliveden in Buckinghamshire, getting youngsters out and about is one of the best ways to introduce them to nature’s delights.
Don’t be afraid to make a mess
There’s no getting around it, children are messy. Gardening can be a great way to channel their messy instincts in a constructive way, from pulling up weeds to digging holes, it allows them to get their hands dirty…and it doesn’t matter!
Buying kids a set of child-friendly mini gardening tools can make them feel like a bona fide gardener, while also helping to develop their fine motor skills in the process.
Grow fruit and vegetables
As we all know, what we eat can have a major impact on our wellbeing, both for better and for worse. With research finding that 90 percent of UK teenagers don’t eat enough vegetables, it’s important to establish good habits early.
Introducing your little one to gardening could help them to understand where their food comes from. Start with fruits and vegetables that are relatively easy to care for and require minimum upkeep like peas, radishes, carrots, lettuces and strawberries.
If you lack square meters, don’t fret. Try growing plants in containers if you have a small patio or balcony, or even window boxes failing that. Raised beds and planting tables make a great half-way option, while many plants, like strawberries and tomatoes, do brilliantly in containers or hanging baskets, with the added advantage of being further away from slugs. Lots of plants, like herbs and salad leaves, can also be grown in pots on a window sill.
As a general rule, most seeds can be sown in April (although check the packet first), then it’s really just a case of watch and water. Regardless of age, there’s a simple, yet magical pleasure in witnessing a handful of tiny, dry seeds transform into something bountiful and delicious.
Keep things interesting
Make sure to offer positive reinforcements when they’re doing a good job in the garden. You can even make up games and reward them for completing little tasks, like watering the plants, picking fruit and tidying up after themselves.
Whether in pots or borders, flowers can lift the most listless of gardens into a blooming haven, providing colour, perfume and an endless source of fascination.
Add bug hotels or mini beast habitats
Attracting mini-beasts, and a few larger ones too, into your garden is another great way to help children engage with the natural world. From starting a wormery to feeding the birds (as long as you don’t have a cat!) to building a bug hotel or a hedgehog home, there are all sorts of ways to increase biodiversity right where you live.
For slightly older children who aren’t likely to fall in, you could even create a pond to attract frogs and toads whose habitats are in decline.
Besides appealing to your little naturalist’s sense of curiosity, caring for wildlife encourages children to respect their surroundings and gives them a sense of empowerment, knowing they can help make a difference.
Why not consign an area of your garden over to nature? Instead of trimming hedges and mowing lawns, just let it grow wild. As well as saving yourself a job, this can help provide shelter for a host of creatures – as well as hours of fun and investigation for your own little creatures.
Easy gardening tasks for kids
Looking for easy gardening activities to do with the kids? Leading gardening brand Miracle-Gro has put together a list of 20 easy tasks to do with little ones.
A survey of 1,000 parents and 1,000 grandparents of children aged 5-12 found a growing movement to get their children to embrace outdoor activities and get away from the TV.
It also emerged half of respondents have spent more time gardening than in the pre-pandemic times, which has meant 37 per cent of children have been outside more too, according to the OnePoll data.
The most popular gardening tasks for kids
1. Watering plants
2. Planting flowers/ bulbs
3. Potting plants
4. Growing vegetables
6. Picking vegetables
7. Filling up the bird bath
8. Sweeping a path
9. Deadheading flowers
10. Mowing the lawn
11. Jet washing
12. Painting fences
13. Homing insects
14. Pruning hedges
15. Cutting back trees
16. Leaf blowing
17. Cleaning the pond
18. Digging trenches
19. Building a shed
20. Laying decking
With many of us having spent far too long cooped up indoors, it’s finally time for a bit more freedom and an opportunity to get back outside. If you have access to a private outside space, gardening with your children comes with many benefits – from embracing nature to aiding our physical and mental health – and guarantees plenty of fresh air, too.
It also provides a wonderful learning environment in which children can do something productive while having fun and getting their hands dirty. What’s more, it sows the seeds for a healthy hobby for life.
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