As we move into the spring and summer months, it is a great time to get the children outdoors to enjoying everything that nature has to offer. However, getting the balance between having fun and making it a chore is going to be crucial in your success. As an adult, I am a massive gardening fan and over the summer months, you will normally find me outside in the garden either enjoying the environment or caring for what has been grown. And quite often, even if I have run out of things to do, I’ll be out there creating something new.
However, getting a toddler or certainly an under 5 years old excited about being outside may take a little encouragement. Cress Heads are a great way of showing children how things grow and you can complete this over a couple of weeks. This knowledge can then be transferred to plants that take longer in the garden.
Simple tips on how to get started
Enjoying the benefits above need not be taxing nor expensive. In fact, what you need to do to get started is relatively simple and won’t take a huge amount of effort, just some thought. When we first started, we had a square patch at the end of the raised bed that was no bigger than 1M by 1M – for a 3 years old this was amazing! There were plenty of wiggly worms to find and mud pies to make. Everyone’s happy!
Invest in some tools for your children
In the same way as many hobbies that children have, it is made a lot easier when they have the right equipment to enjoy it. For example, if your child’s hobby is to play hockey or cricket, you are going to want to make sure that they have enough kit to get by and begin to learn the sport. The same applies with gardening. There are going to be a number of tools in the gardening shed that you really won’t want your children playing with; they’re quite often sharp and dangerous. Instead, invest in some smaller tools that will be more suited to their needs and will enable them to help out around the garden. We’ve got some ideas on tools for those under 5.
One of the keys to success is to start small. In the same way as an adult that is just starting out in the garden, you will want create a small space for them to play with and a few plants for them to care for. Sunflowers are hardy plants and once at a size are not in danger of being dug up! Marigolds are also fairly hardy plants that will survive and provide vivid colour. You will of course want an area where they can play in the mud and there is nothing wrong with this being in the same place as the flowers – it may even help them get some water!
What are the benefits of children gardening
There are so many benefits to children getting out in the garden and getting stuck in. Personally, I absolutely love the enthusiasm I see when it comes to helping out around the garden. To be honest it is quite magical. Ok – he is playing with mud (which I will need to clean up later) but in the moment, I know he is meaning to be helpful.
Similar to us, when we are out in the garden, we gain many sensory experiences. Two of the main sensory experiences that a child will get from the garden will be texture and smell. By planting a wide range of plants in the garden, they will be able to feel all different types of leaves. For example the leaf of a geranium is quite soft and velvet like, it also has quite a distinctive smell. I can still remember the smell from when my Grandfather grew them in his garden. If you are growing vegetables, tomatoes are also quite unique in their smell.
Alongside these, there are also developments in hand and eye coordination. Completing work in the garden, from sowing seeds to digging over beds will be quite challenging to a first time gardener. not to mention during weeding time, there can also be quite physical tasks that they are performing.
Unless you are growing a garden full of weeds, the plants you grow are going to need quite a lot attention throughout their life. During a hot summer season, they are going to need watering and in most cases pruning. Missing out on a few days worth of watering, will certainly, in most cases, cause the plant to wither. That is why, starting small as you will see below is quite important for a young gardener.
Learning Later on
During the nursery years, your child may be fortunate to grow some plants at nursery. If they are really fortunate, they may be near an allotment where they can really get involve in some growing and experience the social side of gardening.
Aside from that, and throughout their time at school, they are going to be learning a lot about nature and of course science. I remember from school that a lot of the experiments that we did, in the early years involved plants. You child will almost certainly be getting a head start by getting exposure to growing in their early years.
Seed to Fork
This is probably one of the most important factors in my opinion. Understanding where food comes from is extremely important for the adults of tomorrow. I do believe that supermarkets are a million times better at this now than what they were around 10 years ago but there is still a way to go. It is almost doing a full circle in that plastic usage and genetically modified crops are coming under scrutiny, when before they were seen as an improvement on practices such as going to the green grocer. Today, I feel this shift is going to become ever more prominent in our buying habits.
That said, growing in your own garden, especially when grown from seed, is just an amazing experience. Plus, the taste and experience of home grown food will just be one that you do not forget. And once you start, it will be something that you are going to want to do year in year out.
Is there anything I need to get?
Really and truthfully, you won’t need much else when getting started other than some confidence around the garden and also enthusiasm that you can pass onto your little ones. If children are able to see that you are excited about getting out into the garden, they too are going to be want to be part of it. There are of course some children gardening tools that you can get which will help them feel a level of ownership and responsibility for any of the tasks that you are going to give them.
Choosing what to grow
Getting this part right is, in my opinion, critical for first time gardeners. You want to be able to spur interest in growing in the garden and it’s even better if you can eat it! Without a doubt, some of our favourites have to be – to name a few:
Beans are just wonderful to grow. Not only because the sowing itself is great fun (a large seed) but also because they grow at such a fast rate. They are also a fairly forgiving plant, you just need to ensure that you have a good support system for them. What’s better is that you can make it a great activity to go and pick the beans. Even at 2 years old, he was quite happy going out into the garden and picking some beans and bringing them in for supper. Not to mention, home grown beans are just delicious!
These can be a little tricky to start off but once they are growing, they grow fast. The Russian Giant variety can grow up to 10 feet high which for a little person will seem enormous. You can create some great activities growing sun flowers such as measuring them or even having a sunflower race.
Again, a fast growing plant that will climb up a trellis. They have a lovely flower and grow to quite a size. Great for a sensory garden or perhaps a sweet pea den. We are creating one this year which we are going to showcase on here once it gets started.
We love potatoes! They are a great crop and provide a staple food for the family. Children can be involved in the potato growing process right from the beginning when you chit them. If it is your first time growing potatoes, I’d definitely recommend growing them in containers. We use these (We have 8 of them this year!) This is great for children as they are at the optimum height to help out and they can also get involved with the layering up process.
Carrots are an easy vegetable to grow both in the ground and in containers. If you go for the ground option, it is going to take a little bit of digging as you will want to ensure that the soil is loose. Containers, will generally produce a nice crop if well watered in a sunny position.
As you can see, the benefits of getting out in the garden with your children are plentiful. And believe it or not, you will enjoy it too. Remember, start simple if you are trying this out for the first time but don’t be afraid to experiment. Take a look around the site for some great hints and tips to help you on your journey of creating a wonderful garden for your children.