Gardening With Children
Gardening with children can be as simple or as complicated as we wish to make it. For the kids themselves, it can be not only an exciting adventure and experiment, but can also be a really good teaching tool and just gives LOADS of satisfaction - and kids love it, not least coz it is an acceptable way to play with dirt! :)
If you have a massive big garden finding space to make a special little garden plot for the kids will be easy, but even if you live in an apartment there are loads of options for growing plants of all kinds. You can devote a lot of time to a big plot or you can just spend a couple of minutes on something small.
Gardening with Children: Plots, Pots and Windowsills
If you have a large garden it is easy to find somewhere to develop into a kiddi-sized plot for them to start gardening in. A good idea is to make the plot small to start off with, design it with the child and keep it close to the house - that way you can keep an eye out while still inside and are in easy calling distance. Never leave your child unsupervised, tools, even small trowels can be dangerous and should always be used under your direct supervision. (See Safety in the Garden for a basic guide on keeping kids safe in the garden.)
In a small or terraced garden you might be able to use a planter or a row of pots to grow various plants - maybe even bringing them inside during the winter. There are some wonderfully inventive planters and gardening containers available from both high street stores as well as from online ones, or you could make your own out of wood, old milk bottles (plastic ones!), broken teapots and any number of other common household objects. Check out Gardening Containers to get some ideas on possible containers to use while gardening with children. Vertical gardening, eg growing plants up walls, is also a brilliant way of gaining valueable growing space for gardening with kids in small spaces.
If you have no garden at all, there are still loads of plants which can be grown inside, on windowsills. Cress is an obvious one to grow but there are many more herbs and vegetables which can be grown indoors very successfully, eg cherry tomatoes, lettuce, parsley etc, quite apart from house plants, flowers and cacti. Another option is to provide your chid with a gardening space of their own in the form of a window box just outside their bedroom window - as long as you are not in high-rise flats!
Another growing trend in the UK are community gardens. These are places for the whole community and look after a plot of land, be it a fruit orchard, allotments or simple gardens. These are a brilliant idea - not only is gardening and nature knowledge passed down from generation to generation, but a sense of belonging to a community and working together for a common aim is also fostered. Check your local library, community center or council for details of any projects near you - and if there aren't any yet ... why not start one!?!
Gardening with Children: Making a Start
The absolutely last thing we want to do is put our children off gardening by turning it into a chore rather than a pleasure, or planting high-maintenance plants which promptly die. So here are a few suggestions for making our first gardening with kids experiences fun and fruitful (excuse the pun!):
Finally, just enjoy it! Learn from your kids. They will look at wonder at the small plants growing, buds forming, and flowers and fruit produces. We do well to see these miracles through their eyes and rediscover this amazing world - gardening with children allows us to wonder at nature again.
Gardening with Children: Conservation
Gardening with kids is not just about planting seeds and watching flowers unfold, but also about recognising our place within nature and helping to conserve the world around us. It provides the best possible environment for learning all about:
Make your own compost out of kitchen and garden waste by making or buying a compost bin. Consider investing in a wormery - kids will absolutely love having all those squiggly worm finishing off their dinner for them! Composting reduces the waste our household produces and at the same time provides quality compost for the garden and pot plants.
Encouraging wild life
Whether you have a large garden, a small gardening space or no garden at all, you can encourage wild life into it and at the same time learn all about the beneficial insects and the important roles played by bees and birds. Feed birds during the winter, provide hybernation homes for ladybirds and hedgehogs, and encourage those insects which feed on aphids and slugs!
While gardening with children we are provided with the perfect opportunity to introduce them to the concept of recycling. We can re-use plastic bottle as cloches, make our own seed pots out of newspaper, use old bits of furniture as gardening containers or to build raised beds, learn to differentiate between materials which will disintegrate over time and those which will not ... the learning opportunities just go on and on.
Check out some of the Garden Learning Activities for more ideas!
Gardening with Children: Being Creative
Gardening with kids is not just about mud and plants, but also about being imaginative and creative. Use a rainy afternoon to give old plant pots a new trendy look with paint, pick and dry flowers and leaves during the summer and make personalised greeting cards or bookmarks for friends and family, make a wind chime and hang it in your window or porch. Basically, get creative with kids garden crafts!
And finally - share your ideas and experiences with other keen parents and young gardeners!
These books deal specifically with gardening with children and are full of useful hints and tips and creative ideas to really make your time in the garden both productive and fun!
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