In December 2018, I embarked on a gardening journey with my two little girls (4 and 7 years old) and I have tried documenting it on this blog. It has been a roller coaster with ups and down, making memories, fun activities, moody children and lots of firsts!
If one of your new year’s resolutions is to get your kids involved in your gardening project, teach them a new skill or just spend more time outdoors in your garden, getting your little ones into gardening is something I can wholeheartedly recommend.
Having spent the last year on this journey both with my own children and running gardening classes for pre-school age children, I would like to kick start this new year’s blog with my top 10 tips for anyone planning to start (or continue) gardening with children
1- Be realistic about what can be achieved
Gardening with children is like anything else you do with children, it takes 10 times longer than what you had originally planned. In this case it is more about the journey than the destination!
2- Try to grow things that they are interested in and like, rather than what you like
For example if you know your little one hates broccoli, growing them from scratch could make them like broccoli but from my experience it is more likely that they will just try it again and not like it again. So why not grow something you know they love so they are also more likely to want to care for it and be super excited when it grows. If your child is into arts and crafts, why concentrate on growing only veggies? You could grow a few fab flowers too and then dry them or use a flower press so they can use them in their artwork.
3- Older children can gain more confidence by having responsibility for a part of the garden or a number of pots/planters
This can be a great way to express their interests. You can work with them before they do any planting and get a nice plan in place on paper.
4- Offering special gardening perks can be quite fun
Whenever I am gardening with my eldest and it is cold she always get a hot chocolate to take out in the garden with her and simply mentioning it makes her get her wellies on!
5- Pretend play is a great way to start them thinking about gardening
You can buy lovely plant sets or make something really simple at home, whichever way it is just important to get the little ones imagining themselves gardening and having fun. If your child is not into pretend play then you could focus on books about growing plants or learn some fun songs about plants and gardening.
6- Invest in some good tools and seeds
Plastic or beach type trowels and spades will most likely break and not be up for the job (digging soil is different from digging sand). If you child is older, it is also nice to get something that looks like the proper grown-up tools as it will signal that you are taking them seriously and giving them responsibility. Most known brands of adult tools also have a children’s version which is created specifically for small hands. Same applies for seeds, opt for good quality as there is nothing more demoralising than finding our that none of the seeds have sprouted.
7- Make it simple
Children have plenty of time to understand the technical aspects of gardening but when they first start off it should be about simplicity, instinct and fun. Last summer, for the first time in my life I grew potatoes with the girls. They are a pretty simple plant to grow but the discovery of what lies beneath the ground was mind blowing for my four year old girl and when I asked her today if she wanted to grow potatoes again she went off shrieking to her sister asking her if she remembers how much fun it was to grow ‘purple’ potatoes!!! This is coming from a girl that rarely remembers what she has had for lunch when I ask her at school pick up.
8- Have everything prepared before you get the children engaged
I have learnt from personal experience that it is hard to maintain their patience when they are waiting for an adult to get things organised.
9- Follow your child’s personality when deciding whether to schedule in time for gardening or go freestyle
My girls are very impulsive and I have therefore lost count of the times I had plans to go out gardening with them and I was the only one on that page. However, if you know that your child thrives in a structured environment than make sure that gardening is part of their schedule, it might not always work but at least it is something to aim for. Like with everything else that you want your child to love, you cannot force it on them. When they want to do it, be ready to grab the trowel!
10- To make gardening more fun mix it up with other activities
Wildlife and nature exploration, learning about how plants grow and their structure, arts and crafts, cooking and getting to know where food comes from are perfect companion activities to gardening.
Ultimately, have fun, enjoy the time together and don’t stress if things are not perfect, you’ll be creating some fantastic memories together.