5 Great ideas to get your children out in the garden during the summer holidays
Gardening is a great activity for everyone, but especially for children: It is not only a life skill, it can be very inexpensive and it is mostly done outside in the fresh air. As well as this it uses a bit of science, a little patience, mindfulness and teaches us to care for something that depends on us for food and water. At the end you have something amazing to look at or to eat. Here are some fun ways to get started. If you are new to gardening start with one thing at a time.
- Grow flowers from seed: Seeds can be free, (collect them from your own plants or swap them with others) or very inexpensive from the garden centre. Seeds can be planted in the ground or in a pot. Why not try annuals Cornflowers, Foxgloves, Californian poppies, Sunflowers, Candytuft, Marigolds and Nasturtiums. These are colourful, and easy to grow. Don’t worry about a tasteful colour scheme, go crazy with whichever colours your child likes best. Once you have grown your flowers enjoy them as they are; cut them and put them in a vase, take photos or press the flowers, or use them in a collage.
- Grow edibles: There is nothing more satisfying than eating something you have grown. You can start by sowing seeds cress on wet kitchen paper, to growing tomatoes, canes of runner beans, raspberries and beds of strawberries, courgettes, or herbs on a window sill: If you are thinking longer term plant a fruit tree. You can buy seeds or plug plants to get you started. Water well and keep weed free. Make it a daily task, measure how tall you plants grow. Once you have your fruit or vegetable then some perhaps cookery lessons can follow.
- Create a wildlife corner: This is perfect if you have an untidy corner of your garden, at the back of a border or behind the shed. Piles of leaves, twigs, stones, are great places for critters to hide. Water is a key element, whether a small pond, or water bowl, that birds and mammals can drink from. You can try putting bird seed out all year round and plant flowers for bees and other insects. If you build it they will come. See if you can watch bugs going around their business. Count how many different animals, birds, and insects you can see.
- Create a sensory garden: you can have a simple water feature, or wind chimes for sound. Sensory plants to play with include rattling poppy seed heads, furry Stachys byzantina, smelly curry plant, lemon balm, and chocolate cosmos.. Or simply see how many different colours, textures, smells, sounds you can see in your garden or park. Include everything, plants, weeds, bugs, stones, soil, bird song, airplane noises…
- Create a mud kitchen: If gardening is not your strength but you want to get your little ones outside, why not create a mud kitchen. This can be a semi-permanent feature with a pallet work top, an old sink, if you are handy or simply a ground sheet, some cups, or pots, some top soil, sand, compost, old spoons and sieves whatever you can spare and some water. Add an imagination and experimentation. How much water do you need to make mud castles, and mud cakes? What is soil made of? What happens when you mix in compost or sand? Get creative; use seeds, leaves, flowers, twigs to decorate your creations.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Summer is a great time to be outside, and getting up close to nature is a great way to teach children all sorts of things, and allow them to be creative and start taking responsibility (a packet of seeds is cheaper than a pet!!). If you want to know more there are numerous blogs on line or look at the RHS website for ideas.