Tips for happy gardening with young children
As we head into summer, people head outdoors, particularly to the garden. It’s the season of lawn mowing, BBQs… and gardening.
Whether you have a garden space of your own or not, getting mucky with soil and seeds is a great way for children to develop a connection with nature.
Gardening together brings all sorts of other benefits too: developing a special bond between you as you nurture the seedlings, learning all sorts of botany lessons about what different plants look like, discovering what conditions plants need to grow, seeing where food comes from, and tasting it fresh.
We spoke to some family gardeners to get tips on cultivating a love of gardening, whatever your age.
Give them ownership
Many parents and nursery teachers advise letting children have their own patch – whether that’s a pot they’ve decorated and added their name to, or a section of a bed just for them. Let them have a patch of ‘garden’ to call their own and be responsible for. This means you can be clear about where’s off-limits too – so children know not to harvest your prize roses for their fairy potions!
If you’re using containers, there’s no need to stick to pots – old boots, watering cans or teapots work well and excite the imagination.
Children often enjoy the responsibility that comes with having jobs of their own. Let them take it in turns to be watering or weeding monitor, for example (though have an adult supervise in case the young gardeners get a little over-zealous pulling things up, or drowning the plants in water!).
Build it into your day
Habits aren’t created overnight, they are made from doing the same things everyday. Make it a habit to check on your garden for a few minutes in late afternoon (or whatever time of day suits you well – though try to avoid watering in full sun as this could scorch the plants).
There’s something magical about spotting seedlings pushing through for the first time, then seeing how they’ve grown each day.
Excite the senses
There’s nothing like being able to smell and taste what you’ve planted to create a sense of excitement. Herbs are good for this, as is lavender. And most children will be excited to have the ‘chocolate plant’ Cosmos Astrosanguineus in their patch! For a lemony smell, try the evergreen Pelargonium crispum, an evergreen plant that works well in containers.
Get quick results
Finally, while delayed gratification is an important skill for all of us to learn, there’s a limit to how much patience young children can be expected to have! Sunflowers, radishes, nasturtiums, marigolds and runner beans are all easy and quick to grow, helping to keep children interested.
You could even have a go at making a bean den by growing beans up canes tied into a wigwam shape – there are full instructions here.
We hope you have lots of fun getting muddy fingernails outside this summer. We’d love to see your pictures – and we’ll have a sunflower photo competition in August, so be sure to get planting your seeds!