Article by Jane Earthy - First appeared in Parent Talk April 2019
Getting children into gardening is not as difficult as you may think – using a few simple techniques can result in a lifelong interest in the natural world. Creating a happy outdoor learning environment is fun for all the family. Here are some tips to inspire you.
Start small – even just growing a large seed like a runner bean in a jar of water shows your child how plants start off in life as the seed germinates, or try an acorn in a pot of soil. Make a small patch of land available to your child and give them ownership of it – whilst they need steering in the right direction let them have some creative input. As they see you performing garden tasks, they can copy you, for instance, if you are planting out some summer bedding, they could pop a few plants in their own patch. Then as they grow, teach them about watering and feeding the plants. Using experiments is a great way to keep the interest going, so maybe try watering one plant, and not another to show the importance of water. You can even start small by growing a carrot top in a saucer – simply cut the top off a carrot and place the cut end into some wet kitchen towel on a saucer and watch the green foliage sprout after a few days.
A lovely idea to do as a family is to create a time capsule of lots of things your children are into or have made and then place it underneath a tree or shrub you are planting – they will love the thought that it will be dug up sometime in the future – but make sure its waterproof!
Growing vegetables is exciting for children but to ensure their interest doesn’t wane it’s a good idea to choose really fast maturing ones like radishes or baby leaf lettuces. They can grow these in a pot they may have painted themselves. Runner beans are excellent too, grow them up some canes and have a fun competition to see whose grows fastest by marking the cane weekly!
The important thing is to keep gardening light hearted and fun and don’t force children into doing tasks in the garden – especially the weeding!