Gardening is a great activity, whatever the age of your child. As well as the obvious physical benefits to gardening and getting them outside and exercising, gardening also teaches kids about the world they live in and enables them to see how their efforts and actions have a positive effect on their environment.
How to set up a kids’ garden
If you’re eager to get the kids outdoors enjoying the garden, take a look at our top tips for turning your little ones into the gardeners of tomorrow. We’ve put together a whole host of activities and some of them won’t cost you a penny! Start small by getting them to help with simple tasks such as weeding or picking up leaves. As they grow in confidence why not get them involved in one of our ideas below?
1. Plant flowers, fruit or veg
Get them green fingered early and teach them how plants grow with some easy seed planting. Encourage the kids to grow their own giant beanstalk with ‘magic’ beans. Runner beans are really easy to grow into tall climbing plants. And they taste really good too! Simply get them to dig away at soft soil using a plastic garden scoop, and then sprinkle in the seeds. Other easy veg to grow include cherry tomatoes, courgettes and carrots. Growing vegetables is a great way to teach kids about where their food comes from, and it’s perfect for promoting a healthy lifestyle.
Or if you have a plant that needs potting out, get them to safely dig out a small hole in the ground and gently push in the plant. If you have a small concrete courtyard with no ground to dig up, a grow bag will do the trick. Just remember to put some holes in the bottom of the bag for drainage if the plants you’re growing need it.
2. Sunflower competition
See who can grow the tallest sunflower. Plant them side by side and watch them sprout in just a week! After 8 weeks, measure the height of each sunflower and whoever grew the tallest will be declared the winner!
3. Wildlife watching
Get a bird spotting book or look up bird types online and let them get to know which birds are in your garden. Make it even more fun by picking up a small pair of binoculars to really get them interested in wildlife watching.
Creating a garden that attracts and protects wildlife helps to teach kids about the circle of life, the world they live in and how their actions can affect others. Our How to Build Your Own Bug Hotel blog gives you a step-by-step guide in creating a bug ‘hotel’ to help attract insects to your garden. Or why not have a go at making your own butterfly feeder? It’s really simple and uses items you’re already likely to have lying around. Here’s how:
• A plastic plant pot tray (or a clean, used food packaging tray)
• 1tsp sugar
• 4tsp boiling water
1. Cut 3 small holes in the plant pot tray evenly spaced apart towards the edge of the saucer.
2. Thread a piece of string through each hole and tie a knot at the end of each to keep in place.
3. Thread beads onto each piece of string to weigh the feeder down before tying the 3 pieces of string together at the top.
4. Make some butterfly nectar by mixing 1tsp of sugar with 4tsp of boiling water.
5. Cut a sponge into small pieces and soak them in the butterfly nectar.
6. Pop the sponges onto the plant pot tray and hang your feeder from a tree in the garden.
Top tip: Don’t forget to keep topping up your nectar so the butterflies visit again and again. How many different varieties of visitor can you count?
The kids might not be able to get involved in building a mud kitchen but they can definitely have lots of fun playing with it. Encourage them to bake some mud pies, or cook a ‘spaghetti carbonara’ with grass (spaghetti), water (for boiling) and some leaves (garlic bread). Follow our 4 steps to build your own mud kitchen:
1. Start by building the frame. We dismantled an old pallet before removing any nails and sanding it down but any old bits of wood will do the trick. Create a frame that resembles a bench (ours measures W120cm x D60cm but yours can be as big or small as you like).
2. Add a worktop using plywood cut to the size of the frame. Use a jigsaw to cut a hole for the sink. If you don’t have a jigsaw you can always just pop a washing up bowl on top of the worktop instead.
3. Next add an ‘oven’ underneath your worktop by making a door using some more plywood. Don’t forget to add hinges and a handle. We also painted ours on the inside with metallic paint to make it look more realistic.
4. Add the finishing touches to your oven by gluing 4 round circles of wood to the worktop to make hobs before painting them black. These could be slices of log, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Then add some dials to the front of the kitchen, again old furniture or doorknobs are ideal. Finish by painting the kitchen with outdoor varnish to weather-proof it.
6. Grow a cress head
Get the kids making a fun cress head using an empty half-cut egg shell, cotton wool and some kitchen towel. Decorate the egg shell with a friendly face, pop a small amount of damp kitchen towel into the bottom of the egg shell, followed by some damp cotton wool. Sprinkle a few cress seeds over the top and shoots will start to appear within a week. Growing herbs is an easy gardening idea to encourage kids’ initial interest in growing their own plants. It requires minimal effort and can be done indoors. They can watch their efforts grow any time of the day too!
7. Re-use household items
Did you know there’s plenty of DIY garden tools you can make using a variety of basic household items? If you’re short on small plant pots for growing seedlings you can fill the holes of a used egg carton with soil and plant your seeds in there instead. Lost your spade? Cut the bottom off an empty plastic milk bottle and you’ve got your own ready-made scoop complete with handle! Need to remove stones from soil? Make your own sieve by cutting holes in an old baking tray. This is a great activity to get the kids involved in too because they can pretend they’re panning for gold.
Gardening is all about experimenting and there are so many free ways to create garden activities for kids. So pop them in some old clothes, relax and let them get muddy!