With the sun out and spring truly here, our attention turns to the outdoors. For those of us lucky enough to have a garden space, getting a bit more green fingered is a great way to spend time with the kids – particularly if they are pre-school. It’ll help them learn things that they can enjoy for years to come, plus it’ll give them some really focussed Mummy time, which can only be a good thing.
If you’re looking for some plant based fun that’ll keep them entertained until the summer months, then this blog is for you. We’ll look at some easy things you can do with the kids to introduce them to how to care for plants. You never know, you might discover you have the next Monty Don or Alys Fowler in your family…
The secret to gardening with young children, is to keep it simple. It’s all too easy to embark on something ambitious for your first gardening project with the little ones. But if it’s ambitious, it usually means there’s more that can go wrong. And there’s nothing more disappointing to youngsters than seeds that don’t sprout. You’ll also need to consider space. Just because you don’t have a spare 1/4 acre plot to turn over to growing veggies (perhaps it’s more a 0.25m²of window sill) doesn’t mean you can’t embark on a bit of gardening play.
So here are three fun ways to garden like a pro – and introduce your little darlings to growing their own.
A Window Food Box
If there’s barely room to swing a cat in your flat, and you’ve no outdoor space available, then some form of Window ledge based growing is probably the only answer. A great way to make it interesting is to focus on food. There are lots of foods the kids will be familiar with with that they can start growing on a window sill.
There’s the usual dried food from the store cupboard: lentils, rice, dried beans, poppy and mustard seeds. Getting them to sprout is quite simple – place them on a small plastic tray on top of a double layer of moistened kitchen towel. For a slightly more ambitious approach, then how about using vegetable tops – such as carrots or parsnips? Slice off the tops and place them in a shallow dish of water in a window sill that catches some – but not too much – sunlight throughout the day. Once they start to sprout they can be potted on into compost. Another great alternative is to do something similar with fruit seeds.
For more information, the BBC’s Gardening Guides are a great place to start.
If you’re lucky enough to have some kind of outside courtyard it can be a fantastic place for your little one to begin their gardening career. Another great food related way of using a courtyard garden is to pack it full of potted herbs. With most English herbs being pretty hardy and resilient, your little ones can learn to look after them with decent leeway before they get really dry. If things look a bit dishevelled in the courtyard during a warm spring, they’ll see the results of watering almost before their eyes – learning to spot when a plant might need a drink.
If you’ve got a shed in your garden, you’ve got the holy grail of gardening classrooms. Somewhere you can pot-on and talk about how plants work – whatever the weather outside. Take photosynthesis for example. You’ll know it’s the ability of plants to convert sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into sugar, so that they can grow. Even better – at night the transpiration phase returns water vapour to the air – alongside oxygen. If you can explain that to the kids, they’ll be horticultural wizards in no time.