There is no doubt about it that gardening is something that children love. Getting muddy, watching things grow and eating what was once a seed are just some of the magical experiences that a child can enjoy from the garden. The questions is, how do you get kids into gardening in the first place?
Getting out in the garden in a child’s early years will create many great memories and ones that they will cherish for the rest of their lives. I am sure that many of us can relate to the times that we spent out in the garden with our Grandparents – often growing tomato plants!!
What’s important (and that’s why you are here) is that a child is going to need some help in getting started. They won’t be able to pick up a book by Monty Don and learn everything about what to do in the garden. Quite often, they aren’t even aware of the seasons. So whilst we say how to get kids gardening, it is also a very important that the parent embarks on this journey as well.
With that in mind, we are going to look at some elements that we believe are important to children from a learning perspective and also what you can expect children to get out of it too.
Make gardening exciting
To make gardening exciting is one of the first things to think about when planning what you are going to do, this probably means leaving the weeding out of the equation! (sorry – no help there yet!). You have to think about the world in which children are growing up in – it’s an instant one. And there is nothing about growing that is instant.
Insects & Wildlife
Insects and wildlife are everywhere outside in the garden. And what is more fun, is hunting for them and spotting all of the different species in and around the garden. Encouraging wildlife into the garden can often be a very rewarding experience and with the right equipment, you can really change the dynamic of your outside space. After all, wildlife plays such an important part in the eco system of the garden and what you grow will influence the types of wildlife that you will see in your own garden.
If you ask an adult to roll around in the mud and jump in the puddles, the chances are the answer would probably be no. However, for a child, this can be great fun. Getting children used to the texture of mud will certainly get them off to a great start when it comes to sowing and growing.
Mud kitchens are a great way to use mud for imaginative play outside and can provide hours of entertainment. There are many types of mud kitchen available to purchase, our mud kitchen page explores some of the option available to buy.
Mud also has many other benefits, ones that you won’t naturally think of. If you are curious about the benefits of mud play, check out The Benefits of Mud Play.
Choosing the right plants
Choosing the right plants is going to be key for your new gardeners, especially if space is an issue. In our opinion, quick growing vegetables and salads will certainly work – and you get to eat them afterwards. Unlike other hobbies or activities such as cooking, gardening takes time and often you can’t see the results straight away.
A great activity that you can do all year round is growing a bean in a glass. This can be completed all year round and more importantly indoors if you are looking for activities in the winter. You could also grow some cress heads indoors that are quick, easy and fun to do!
Visit a garden
Gardening doesn’t just have to be in your own garden. There are many gardens around the country that you can go and visit that offer spectacular displays all year round. You will want to do your research before going to the garden to make sure that there is enough entertainment for your little ones. Some of the gardens are catered for an adult audience, so you wouldn’t want to put them off.
However, three gardens stand out for us as great family experiences with plenty to do.
From the plot to the plate
One of the most amazing things about gardening, is growing vegetables. All too often, children come with us to the supermarket and just pick the vegetables off the shelf. But where do they really come from? How much care went into growing them? Do we realise that they come off of a plant? These are all questions that growing vegetables in the garden can answer.
It needn’t be complicated and it needn’t be vast. Even just a few vegetables can give children such a sense of achievement. From our own personal experience, green vegetables weren’t particularly something that our children wanted to eat. That was until we grew some vegetables in the garden. The real turning point was growing peas! Oh how the children fell in love with them. So much so that they were picking them off of the plant and just eating them in the garden. I am not actually sure how many actually made it to the plate as they didn’t make it indoors! This was amazing to watch and such a great experience for them.
Over the years, we have steadily increased the amount that we grow and now our children enjoy courgettes, leeks, potatoes, tomatoes, sweetcorn and beans fresh from the garden. It’s great for healthy eating and also makes so many memories in our very own back gardens! If you are looking for some vegetables to grow, check out our own post on easy to grow vegetables.
Take a trip to the garden centre
Believe it or not going to the garden centre can be a great adventure for children. Whilst not all plants will be suitable for our gardens, it will open their eyes to the sheer variety of plants that exist.
- Visit the herb section and smell all the wonderful different herbs. How many different types of mint do they have?
- Do they sell cactus plants – see how different they all are
- Look at how many different composts they sell
- Take an interest in the plant labels – where do the plants grow? How big do they get?
- Take a look at the gardening equipment – a great way to see all of the different tools you might need in the garden
- Look at the seeds – experience the variety of different types of the same plant. When can you sow them?
If you are anything like us, we could spend all day in the garden centre. And not because we love gardening but just through natural curiosity. We always seem to get stuck in the seed isle contemplating what to grow next, only to discover we’ve bought another seed packet of something we already have!
Having the right equipment
Having the right equipment in the garden is essential for your young gardeners. Now, you really don’t need a full armoury of kids garden equipment but more have what is going to make it enjoyable and easy for them. They will most likely want to copy all of the things that you do in the garden.
Essential Gardening Equipment:
- Gloves – having gloves is pretty much essential in the garden if you want to try anything other than sowing. You might want the children to help with some weeding or perhaps there are some nettles around and you don’t want to knock their confidence. Gloves are inexpensive and will certainly give a level of protection. Check out some of our favourite brands.
- Spade – if there is one piece of physical equipment to have in the garden, it has to be a spade! Most garden activities always start with some digging. You will want to make sure that the spade you purchase is quality and will stand the test of time. This is often a cheaper than buying a new plastic one each year.
- Warm clothes – gardening can be fun in all weathers! Fact! Believe it or not, there is going to be plenty to do in all different weathers out in the garden. One of my favourite pieces of clothing has to be a good gillet. Great for keeping your core warm but stops you getting too hot.
Have an area to experiment with
Gardening is all about experimenting. Not everything will grow and not all of your vegetables are going to turn out like the ones in the shop. If you could see some of the carrots that we have pulled out of the ground, you would completely understand (they were fine to eat!).
However, having that space where children can experiment and call their own is extremely important. They can choose what they are going to grow, add compost, take ownership of the care of the plants and then relish in their successes. The space you chose does not have to be large, if you have space for a raised bed like the one above, this would be ideal.