Gardening has obvious benefits – fresh air and exercise, but it’s also easy to lose the connection with outside and nature, and I think it’s really important that that stays. We’re fighting a lot of additional attractions, and it feels like we’re taking on the Wii with a few seeds, but it is possible. Being in the garden also helps with creativity; getting outside where things don’t work to set rules makes children think hard about things and be more inventive. And from a nutrition point of a view, the moment they get into growing things that they can eat, they start to eat more healthily.
Try to find simple, fun tasks for them to help with. One thing my lot enjoy on a nice day is having a massive washing up bowl full of bubbles, where they’ll clean my plastic pots for me. They’re also quite good at dead-heading plants, you can use craft scissors to snip off the old flowers. Explain that you’re tricking the flower into carrying on flowering – kids love that idea. At the end of the summer, when things are going to seed, let them cut and collect the seeds. They can make packets with instructions on for next year.
Even if you haven’t got a full-sized garden, you can do loads. You can grow almost anything in a container on a balcony or patio. We planted a vegetable garden in a wheelbarrow, with six different crops. You can get mini varieties of vegetables like lettuce, dwarf tomatoes, dwarf beans, or round carrots. It’s all about results without too much effort, so in a way it can be better if you’ve only got a little amount of space – children can really tend to their patch.
If you haven’t got any outside space, use your windowsills. We love growing things from kitchen scraps. If you’ve got an onion that’s started sprouting, you can put it in a bowl with a bit of gravel and water in it, and watch it flower. Try carrot tops, vines from sweet potatoes, chop the tops off spring onions and put them in water to resprout. Celery will do the same. You can make a whole garden out of kitchen waste. You can also grow your own microgreens – just harvest seedlings – try broccoli, beetroot, or dill.
TOP GROWING TIPS FOR KIDS
- Give them their own little space. Kids are all about me, me, me, so if you give them their own piece of garden, things are already more exciting.
- Keep things short and sweet. Make sure nothing lasts for too long, and try to associate being outside with always being fun – this might mean doing some preparation beforehand.
- Give short term rewards. If they have something at the end of a session to show for it, so much the better. Planting and sowing requires patience, which is not my children’s strong point. For example, decorate the pot that they’re planting in, and write their name on it.
- Create something with drama. A sunflower alley is lovely for really little children, and dead simple; just plant two parallel lines of sunflowers. They have big seeds, which is always good for small children, because the smaller they are, the more likely they are to be dropped or shoved up a nose. Plant it out from May, and then you don’t have to start it off inside, you can put the seeds in the ground, a metre apart, and create a tall, magical alley that you can walk down. A Bean Teepee is another easy idea. Plant bean seeds at the base of a bamboo frame. When they grow, you’ve got a little leafy hideaway den.
READ 101 Things For Kids To Do On a Rainy Day, 101 Things For Kids To Do Outside, and Garden Crafts for Children (Kyle Books)
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