Summer is definitely the time of the year when my girls love spending time in the garden the most. Longer and warmer days, bountiful crops of food to munch on, the opportunity to have fun with water and wonderful minibeasts to look at, make summer days in the garden lots of fun.
If your kids or grandkids feel the same about summer in the garden as my girls do and you are looking for some inspiration for activities to do with them this summer here are my top 5 suggestions:
Sow fast crops and think ahead for Autumn and Winter plants
Although it is quite late to grow many plants from seed, there are still some crops and herbs that can be sown and enjoyed during what’s left of Summer and into the start of Autumn.
In July, carrots, beetroots, radishes and peas can still be sown and should give any young gardener one last round of crop. Fast growing herbs like parsley, dill and coriander can also still be sown in July and are great if you are keen for your mini gardener to use their crop in the kitchen and try making new dishes together. Not all kids are into salad but for those that are, fast growing varieties should still give them a decent crop well into Autumn until the first frost.
August is really a time to start thinking about next years garden and sow winter flowering plants such as pansies and violas. These are both great for supporting bees during the winter months and into early spring as well as providing colour in the garden when it most needs it. Did you know that their flowers are edible and make great decorations for cakes and shortbread?
Some types of salad like radicchio and corn salad can be grown outdoors in winter and August is a great time to start sowing them.
And if you feel that you are too late to grow from seed, it is still fun buying fully grown plants and giving them lots of love (in plant world that is water, feed and care!), they will reward you with lovely blooms and yummy crops!
Enjoy the fruit of their late-winter and spring sowing and planting
I have not yet come across a child that does not love picking strawberries or tomatoes (even when they are not quite ready yet!) or any of the produce that they have grown. My youngest has just spotted 3 pea pods yesterday and it was as if she had found gold! They might not always eat what they pick but the idea of being able to just get food from a plant is something magical for most children.
Picking together is also a great way to talk about what can be eaten when and what colour things should be before picking. For those old enough to know what to pick, it can be a daily activity that they can do before dinner and together you can then try to incorporate what they have picked into your meal, you can’t get any shorter ‘farm to fork’ distance…
Love your minibeasts and pollinators
During summer the garden is buzzing with activity as minibeasts and various pollinators enjoy the beautiful flowers in our gardens and outdoor spaces.
A great little activity for children is to make sure that your garden or balcony has little water stations for bugs. Make sure that these are shallow so the insects don’t drown and keep them topped up with fresh water.
Dead heading is a great way to make sure that plants keep on producing flowers for the pollinators to visit and if your child is old enough to handle a pair of scissors then they can help you keep the garden looking fresh and help pollinators in one go. There are many uses for dead flower heads, from making potions to picking seeds for next year, so this activity can be the start of other ones.
There are so many minibeasts and pollinators in our gardens and it is great for kids to learn their names, what they look like close up and why they are important. A minibeast hunt can be a great way to learn more about these very important creatures and it can be done both in your garden or anywhere outdoors that has plants and trees. The woodland trust has some great resources to help you plan the hunt or you can use the Little Robin Education flashcards and fact cards. Just make sure you do not remove any minibeasts from their environment as that is their home!
Water, water and water
It is generally recognised that watering is children’s favourite gardening activity and when the weather is hot both plants and wildlife need a helping hand in finding water so why not get the kids to do what they love!! But apart from watering plants and keeping water stations for insects and birds topped up, water can be used for many other fun activities in the garden and also as a way to better understand plants.
For younger children, water can be used to paint on paths and paving using a brush straight from nature like a few lavender tops, a stick, some leaves or a flower with a strong stem. It is obviously a temporary form of art but it is a nice activity to keep young ones occupied for a few minutes and picking the ‘natural’ brush can be a fun child-led activity too.
Older children can use a rain gauge to see how much rain their garden receives over a week or over the summer holidays, with your help they can then compare it to what the average rainfall is for that month or period and see if the summer has been drier or wetter than expected.
Planting drought resistant plants is a great way to not waste water over the summer months but children might be interested in why and how some plants require less water than others. Do they retain water in their leaves? Are their leaves optimised for losing as little water as possible? Are their leaves hairy, waxy or very small? Understanding how plants protect themselves from lack of water is a great science topic and a good way for children to observe plants in more detail.
Make the most of the beautiful flowers
Summer is for me associated with flower crowns. We made some lovely ones last year using the abundant wild sweet peas that used to take over our old garden. Not only do they create a perfect photo op (children in flower crowns are simply angelic!) but they also gives us a fun way for children to get to know what flowers grow in their gardens. There are lots of tutorial out there for making them from a simple twisting/tying the flowers together to using florist tape to attach them together.
If making a crown is too complicated, why not pick the flowers, press them using a flower press and then arrange them in a circle or to form a rainbow if you can find all the various colours?
If you don’t want to wait for the flowers to dry, I have recently started following @fiveminutemum on Instagram and she did a lovely activity using petals, sticks and leaves. She drew a small face on a piece of paper and the children were then creating flower fairies using what they could find in the garden. If your kids are not into fairies, this activity can easily be adapted to other interests like creating a superbug, a monster or a very fierce dinosaur.
What are your favourite summer gardening activities with kids? Feel free to share them with us on Instagram and Facebook or as a comment on this blog.
Wishing you a lovely summer!!