Being a child is all about having fun, and what better way to make those lasting memories than whiling away long summer days in the great outdoors. With half term in full swing, now is the perfect time to start inspiring children to open up the doors and jump straight to the garden or take a trip to the nearest Tates of Sussex Garden Centre. Did you know that a recent survey found that 29% of millenials are now choosing to take up gardening as a pastime? Great news for a nation that could really do with stepping away from the screen, but imagine what that number could be if we introduced gardening at a far younger age. Opening children up to the world of gardening can help instill a life-long healthy habit, teaching them to not only gain respect for nature but also to keep active and socialise with others.
If you weren’t already aware, National Children’s Gardening Week takes place annually to coincide with the May half term, and brilliantly celebrates all of the fun that gardening can hold for children of all ages. Up and down the country everyone from parents and grandparents, to garden centres and schools are exploring the joy of gardening for children. Brightly coloured petals, textured leaves and messy soils are all fantastic sources of entertainment for little ones and what’s great is that it can be a fairly inexpensive way to keep kids of all ages entertained over the holidays.
So whether they want to plant seeds in playhouses and greenhouses or use their very own home-grown ingredients to whip up some tasty treats, when it comes to gardening there really is something to inspire every little imagination. If you’re eager to help inspire your children to start gardening but a little stumped at where to begin, here are a few of our top tips to get you started.
1. Don’t Start Too Big
One of the best ways to introduce children to the wonderful world of gardening is to start small so as not to overload them with too many tasks, the first few experiences with gardening should be easy to pick up and really positive if they are going to make a lasting impression. A great first job could be giving them one plant to grow from a seed, such as a sunflower, something that is easy to pot and will keep them eagerly watching to grow over a reasonably short period of time. Seeds are relatively inexpensive and can be found at most gardening shops, starting with just the one plant it keep the mess to a minimum and will make it easier to keep an eye on growth. Giving children their own space to grow will help them feel a sense of ownership over the plant, a nice sunny spot in the windows of playhouses, greenhouses or summerhouses can be perfect.
2. Bring Gardening To Life
A great way to really engage children in gardening is to bring a bit of character to the whole thing, and what better way that growing their very own ‘hair’. One tweet from the National Children’s Gardening Week movement has suggested asking kids to take a selfie, print it off and stick it onto a paper or plastic cup. From there they can fill the cup with soil and plant a thin layer of grass or cress seeds. With a little water, sunshine and of course, some love the seeds will grow into some fantastic looking hair sprouting from the top of their heads which should certainly get them smiling. Once those locks start to become slightly overgrown you can even help give them a little trim!
3. Grow Something Yummy
If you’re struggling to get your little (or big) one to eat their five a day, then why not try helping them to grow their own fruit and veg from scratch. Helping children to plant, nurture and harvest their own healthy crops not only teaches where food comes from, but also helps them feel more connected and attached to the plants being grown. Eagerly awaiting the growth of a fruit or vegetable that is ripe enough to pick will have them excited to not only pick it, but try it too. Some of the best and easiest plants to start with are thought to be peas, strawberries, carrots or radishes so why not give it a go this year.
4. Feeling Creative?
When it comes to being creative in the garden, growing your own pizza toppings is a sure fire way to get even the most unenthusiastic of children out into the garden and having fun. If you have the space, then measure out a circle shape and section as you would a pizza, in each ‘slice’ you have grow the herbs need to make your very own pizza. On the subject of ‘growing your own’ another brilliant idea is to let children spell out their name of initials into a bed or large container using cress seeds (or other salad seeds). They can then watch them grow into the letters of their name until they are ready to cut and make into a tasty, rather personalised salad!
5. Make A Sensory Path
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous and possibly have slightly older children to help, you could consider building a sensory path for the garden. You’ll need to take a trip to your local Tates of Sussex Garden Centre to collect a few essential items such as bricks and sharp sand, but once you’ve marked out where you would like your path to go, it’s a simple case of letting your creativity flow and filling in the blanks. A sensory path can be whatever you want it to be, and is a fantastic way to help children explore different materials and feel more connected to nature, it can also be incredibly relaxing for adults too!
6. Build A Fort
As a fantastic addition to playhouses, a trellis fort is simple to construct out of willow, branches, bamboo canes and twine to really help spark little imaginations. Helping children to plant a vining plant at the base, such as a sweet pea or honeysuckle, they can watch them grow upwards into the fort or tunnel, guiding them as they grow. It is a great way for kids to connect with nature as they see their own spaces become transformed by plants, making the perfect shady spaces to hide and play.
If you don’t have a garden of your own, no problem, a lot of planting can actually be done indoors or at an allotment if you have access to one.You can also make use of garden buildings (preferably with a window) such as garden sheds, summer houses, log cabins or even garden offices. Garden or no garden, there really are no barriers to getting our children more involved with gardening, and with so many health and social benefits starting them as young as possible can only seem to have a positive impact on their wellbeing. Here at Tates of Sussex Garden Centres we are celebrating National Children’s Gardening Week in style, with a range of exciting events and activities for children of all ages to get involved with. On Thursday 30th May we will be holding a sunflower seed planting workshop at our Paradise Park site from 11am-3pm. All of our garden centres will be holding a colouring competition, and there will be a fun gardening quiz at our South Downs Nurseries, Old Barn Garden Centre and Mayberry Garden Centre over the course of the week.
If you’re looking for a few more ideas to get yours (and your children’s) gardening habits off to a good start, have a read of our top gardening tips for May where you’ll be sure to find some fantastic ways to kick your gardening practice into gear. You can also visit one of our Garden Centres across Sussex, where we stock a number of seeds perfect for budding gardeners, as well as offer advice and guidance on making gardening fun for little ones.