During this period of lockdown, finding ways to while away the hours isn't easy.
However, those with kids may now feel busier than ever – with homeschooling to contend with, as well as working yourself, and finding ways to entertain the children in between. It’s sometimes feels never ending.
But one brilliant and easy way to occupy your little ones – when the park, friends houses and soft play are off limits – is the garden. Getting outside in the fresh air and sunshine provides both you and your family with endless health benefits, after spending hours cooped up inside.
Award-winning gardening designer Charlotte Howard said, “In these tough times, now, more than ever, it is important to get children connected with nature. Studies have proven that children who garden in the fresh air will be happier and fitter, and will concentrate better at their studies, while also gaining an idea of where their food comes from.”
She also explained that the key to getting your little ones interested is keeping it simple for them. Charlotte said, “Short, easy activities with quick wins at first to fire their interest. Then, as they see how easy it is to grow something from a seed, for example, they will hopefully want to try something more challenging.”
There are plenty of things you can do in the garden to get your children involved. Because a little dirt and mud is good for them, after all..!
Gardening ideas and activities for kids
1) Plant some sunflower seeds
For a simple way to get your kids into gardening, planting sunflower seeds is a fun and easy activity. And it couldn’t be more timely with the arrival of sunny spring!
Charlotte, who helps to transform people’s gardens, said, “Get them involved at the planning stage, show them seed catalogues get them to draw their favourite plants, and perhaps steer them towards edibles – this may be the chance to finally get them to eat veg!
“Getting hold of seeds and compost may be hard but not impossible. Try your local nursery first before going to the supermarkets, they really need our business right now and they can either deliver or offer a click and collect service. Then, give children their own space to grow, literally, somewhere with nice, weed-free soil and lots of sun. Or better still, some pots or a raised bed. If space is limited, and you only have a balcony or windowsill, you can give them responsibility for one plant”, Charlotte advised.
Growing something simple of their own will also give your kids a sense of achievement, as well as keeping them entertained and excited about the garden.
2) Create some bird boxes
Getting your little ones involved in the garden doesn’t need to be all about planting and digging – you could also help out some of the wildlife that visit your little patch of land.
Husqvarna, a leading outdoor power tools manufacturer, suggests putting together a bird box as a family – with parents working on the assembly and kids taking part in the safer decorating part.
They said, “To do this, head into your garage and find those pieces of wood you’ve been storing forever, and join them together with nails and a hammer, after cutting them to size (back panel: 45cm x 15cm, front: 20cm x 15cm, base: 11cm x 15cm, roof: 21cm x 15cm, and two sloped side panels: 25cm at the back and 20cm at the front). To attract lots of beautiful birds, create an entrance with a hole that measures 10cm high.”
“To give their bird box a personal touch, allow your kids to decorate it using non-toxic water-based paint and let them decorate it to their heart’s content. Once finished, attached the box to your tree using a nylon bolt or wire, to reduce damage to your tree. “
You could also follow this easy guide for making a bird feeder.
3) Decorate a wooden spoon to label planted veg
Let your little’uns personalise a wooden spoon you might have lying in the back of your kitchen drawer, before heading out into the garden.
They can add these to any vegetable patches you may be growing, so perhaps label them with the name of each vegetable you’re growing in your garden, and allow them to stick them in the soil with abandon.
It may also encourage them to tend to the produce themselves. So not only does this simple craft give you a fun afternoon with the kids, it will also (hopefully!) lead on to them becoming great little gardeners.
4) Get them weeding
Charlotte suggested that, far from ignoring them, the weeds and bugs in your garden could be a great way for your kids to engage in the outdoors.
She said, “When weeds come, make a game of it. See how many they can pull up and give them a reward. I remember my mother used to give me 10p for every dandelion I pulled up – I’m sure this fired my interest in earning a living from gardening!
Charlotte added. “Put your squeamishness to one side, and encourage them to get their hands dirty and handle worms. Explain to them how important creatures like worms, frogs, ladybirds and bees are to making things grow by eating the bad bugs or making the soil crumbly. Kids love it when you tell them soil is basically worm poo!”
5) Press some flowers
Experts at Husqvarna also suggest a unique way for your kids to enjoy the blooms in your garden.
Perhaps allow them to pick two or three flowers (that you aren’t fond of!), and allow them to turn them in to a beautiful piece of artwork.
They say, “Once their flowers have been chosen and picked, simply place them between sheets of baking parchment or tissue paper, ensuring the full flower is covered, then place inside the pages of a big heavy book and leave to press for 2-3 weeks.
“After the allotted time, gently remove the pressed flowers from the book and allow your children to glue them to brightly coloured paper to create a pretty picture.”
Tips for keeping kids safe whilst gardening
Of course, playing outside in the mud, with gardening tools, means its important to watch out for your kids safety.
Charlotte shared some helpful things to be aware of to keep your kids safe in the garden.
- Keep sharp tools away from young children. Show older children how to handle sharp tools and have a respect for them. Never leave tools unattended.
- Never leave children alone near water. Fence off any potential danger areas.
- Show your children the difference between good and bad plants to eat – or better still, choose plants or seeds that are non toxic.
- Teach children about stinging plants and stinging insects, and how to behave near them.
- Keep the ends of stakes covered with a cork or small plastic bottle.
- Most importantly, get them to wash their hands and their tools after every session.