Quality Time with Children in the Garden

Most school children are off school for a week or two and your garden is waking up from its long, enforced cold slumbers. What a perfect opportunity to get into gardening.

Gardening is fantastic for children to get involved in.

Think of all that exercise, fresh air, communing with nature and mental well-being in helping things grow and flourish. Or even flail and fail - all incredible learning experiences. With it being spring (on the calendar and not the forecast at the moment - but that will change), the opportunity to start off the growing year is upon us.

Here’s a few tips on getting the most out of your quality time with your young gardeners:

DON’T get them weeding. Sorry for starting off on a negative but come on, pulling out dandelions from lawns or wearing protective armour to rip out nettles isn’t going to inspire. It might feed the rabbit and produce the ingredients for a fantastic nettle soup, but long term? It would put me off gardening.

DO sow seeds. Loads of them. Some are easy - nasturtiums will not fail (I’ll guarantee it!) and everyone loves a good sunflower race. Start them now, indoors on a windowsill to prevent cold damage and it will keep you from being drenched in what forecasters are saying is going to continue be a wet start to spring.

Ponder the Plastic

Very importantly, the younger generations are going to inherit the bit of a mess us old un’s have created when it comes to waste plastic, the oceans etc. So, use wood pulp pots instead of plastic, reuse old pots because they are a devil to recycle, or reuse any containers you might usually throw out.

We recently had a sandwich box amnesty in Chez McCann brought on by a load of them sliding onto my head when reaching for a light bulb - detail you don't need to know but it gives you a less than tantalising glimpse into my fast-lane lifestyle! Where do the lids go and the ones we have don't really fit? So, I squirrelled away a few boxes to use as seed trays. And covers. Nice. And trust me, talking with great little gardeners, they are so much more aware of the environment than we were. Phew, lecture over.

Let them dig. It doesn't matter if it gets muddy. It doesn't matter if creaky old dinosaurs like myself whinge on bleating ‘it will ruin the soil structure.’ What does matter is seeing worms, watching the robin watch, discovering woodlice and imparting your expert knowledge of common names for common animals and stuff (woodlice are called many things, including armadillo bug, boat-builder, butcher boy, doodlebug, cheesy bug,hog-louse, roly-poly, roll up bug and wood bug)

Let them play on the lawn - yes, even when it is wet. It’s more fun. And whatever damage you do you know that your lawn will recover. Grass does that sort of thing. Every time. And play the games with them. Go in goal. Be a fielder at cricket. Keep the sandpaper in the shed though.  

Build. OK, if you aren't into creating large forts, towers, playhouses or small cities out of scraps of wood, build a bug hotel. Those slaters (another name for woodlice) will thank you for it. Pile up logs, old wood, stack a few bricks on top, more wood, twigs, leaves, snap a few bamboo canes into smaller lengths and bundle those together (bees love that sort of thing) And bugs are good for the garden - so you, as head gardener, will win.

So, oh hold on, my second in line to the throne is in the garden as I write…

‘Get that ball off the soil. Can’t you see it’s wet. You’ll stamp all the air out of it. Yes, I’m off to the tip with those old bricks in a minute. No, you’re fine there - all the nettles have gone. Just wear gloves, a safety mask and steel toe capped boots before venturing near the compost heap. Those monkey-peas are vicious.  What have I told you about that sandpaper. Don’t put it down there.’

Gotta go - got some tutelage to do!


PS. Don't forget to check out all our great kids' gardening tools!