How to Get Your Kids Into Gardeningby Leyla Brooke
As a child I spent many hours with my Grandma in her garden. My Grandad used to grow potatoes and sweet peas and my Grandma was very well known for the roses she grew. I have many happy childhood memories spending time with my grandparents helping them in the garden and learning to grow a variety of things.
Now with three children of my own ranging in age from 4 years to 9 years, I am hoping to instil in them a love of gardening also. There are a number of really easy activities to do which can engage a child first to want to grow something and then in turn to love gardening.
One of the easiest things to grow is cress. The seeds are really cheap and all you need to do this is a paper towel, water and cress seeds. I make it more interesting though and find a container such as a used yoghurt pot or even an empty eggshell.
Cress seeds will grow on a damp tissue paper, so you can either sprinkle a few onto a damp piece of paper towel and watch them grow or you can make it fun. We decorate an empty eggshell with eyes and a smile so it looks like a head. Then add either cotton wool or paper towel inside the eggshell and add water to make the inside damp. Next, add a sprinkle of seeds. As the cress grows it will look like hair for your eggshell face. Cress also grows quite quick so there is not too much waiting for something to happen.
Tomatoes and strawberries are both great plants which can grow in hanging baskets or pots. Even if space is limited, these take up relatively small space to grow. One of the easiest tomato plants to grow are called tumbling tomatoes and they tend to grow downwards, making them perfect for hanging baskets. Growing food is really fascinating for young children as they can eat what they grow. Sugar snap peas are another great plant that gives off beautiful flowers and with the added bonus of growing food too.
Other foods which are always fun to grow with children are apples and pears from the seeds. Growing carrots using the tops of the carrot. This is a really fun experiment as the carrot top would normally go to waste. Instead, placing it in a glass with water can grow a carrot from a carrot, it is almost like magic. In the same way, potatoes can be grown from potatoes.
Sunflowers are something that all kids seem to love to grow. Watching how tall they grow and seeing if you can grow one taller than yourself. We grow ours next to the wall or fence so we can mark how high it is and see how much it grows and when.
Gardens are also great places to play scavenger hunts in. Children love to find things, and my children can also be quite competitive with each other. Even the older ones love a scavenger hunt. Can they find something for all the colours of the rainbow? Can they find something for every letter of the alphabet? By spending time in the garden and exploring what is there they begin to show more of an interest in it.
My youngest at 4 now loves to spend time in the garden as he wants to find all the mini beasts. As he finds them I talk to him about why they are important for the garden and what they do. He has helped build bug hotels to encourage more minibeasts into the garden.
By growing plants and spending time in the garden, as well as exploring and developing an understanding of the role each element plays, children start to develop a fascination with the garden. This will then lead to a desire to spend more time in the garden and look after it. The most important bit is you spend time there too. Children learn by example so the best way to get children into gardening is to have fun in the garden together.