Having my kids with me out in the garden is definitely not a consistent provider of Instagram ready material! At various times they have all been truly interested in various aspects of gardening, that comes and goes, but lots of the time, they can’t be bothered. Sometimes their best efforts and intentions can make more work. But I know with certainty, that their seeing me outdoors growing things is a really strong force for good. Firstly, if nothing else only to nag me for snacks or report their brother/sister for their latest crimes, they come outside more often. Through this alone, they get a little fresh air and a sense of the seasons and nature’s rhythms. I know I’m a calmer person when I have had my hands dirty and that little bit of space is sometimes enough to let them settle things themselves and stops every little niggle irking me.
The biggest benefit of all though is that I know that they are picking up some gardening knowledge if only by osmosis and that I’m planting the seed (sorry!) in them. Some day when they are older and under pressure, they will have enough gardening knowledge in their toolkit to get them started. This is exactly what happened to me. Heaven knows I was as useful as a chocolate teapot to my mother in the garden but somehow I still got the bug and knew enough to be able to tap into it all my life.
Now I have three children of my own, they are all involved to some degree. Their interested waxes and wanes and I have some that really aren’t all that interested and one that might have the bug. I try to relax about it and if they join in, great and if they can’t be bothered, I enjoy the bit of me time.
So here are some of the ways that I have found to keep them interested over the years:
- Let them pick out something to grow. Suitability – ALL AGES
My kids always get to choose a plant or some seeds when we are at the garden centre. If you’re thinking of which seeds are good starters for children, check out my YouTube video here.
- Give the children their own patch in the garden. Suitability – ALL AGES
My girls especially love to mix in flower and fairy garden furniture.
- Allow them to collect some seeds. – Up to 10 (child dependent but one of mine lost interest in this around 8).
Lupins and Sweet Peas work great for this as the seeds are quite large and easy for little fingers to manage. Aquilegia go to seed early in the season, are easy to collect and are ones that can be planted straight away. We have had great success with these.
- Be open minded as to how the seeds get used!
Sometimes they are planted but often they are ‘pea soup’ for their teddy bears.
Suitability – Up to around 8 (Pea soup lost its appeal around 8 years old in our house).
- Watering – yes it will be messy but it’s always a hit and if you teach them to water properly (see YouTube), it is a real help.
Suitability – ALL AGES (even my eldest will still help out on this – just make sure to have different sized watering cans so the youngest can have a go).
- Grow something they will eat. ALL AGES
Realistically, you are unlikely to persuade them to love cabbage but I have had good results with cherry tomatoes and strawberries.
- Other garden activities that have gone down well over the years:
- Scavenger hunts. Give them a clipboard, a bucket/pot and a list of 10 things to find (1 pink flower, a brown stone, a grey stone, a twig, a bug …). When they were really tiny, I would draw what they needed to find. Great way to kill 20 or 30 minutes when they are young.
- Treasure hunts with maps. They love the maps with X mark the spot and draw them for each other now, hiding lego figures and other small toys.
- “Perfume” and “soup”. Give the smallies a bowl and spoon and permission to pick some flowers (you need to be careful on the instructions here!) and tell them to make perfume or dinner for their teddies. Just remember that you will need to be clear that they can’t actually eat the dinner as not everything in the garden is safe to eat but we haven’t had any problem here – sometimes the aversion to veggies works out well!