Spring is a fab time of the year to spend in the garden and it is the perfect season to introduce children to gardening and growing plants. Spring runs from around the 20-21st of March til the 20-21st of June so it is the time of the year when the days are getting longer, the sun is getting warmer and nature finally awakes after the winter months.
Here are my five favourite Spring things to do in the garden with children.
1) Sow, sow, sow
There are a huge variety of both flowers and vegetable plants that can be sown at the beginning of spring. Out of my own experience I would recommend getting children to decide what they would like to grow and why. If they are keen to grow their own food, vegetables, berries such as strawberries and edible flowers are great options. If you are sowing flowers think about picking good pollinators or flowers that can also provide food for birds in Autumn.
My girls like growing pretty much anything from seed even if they are not going to necessarily eat the produce. In my experience as an amateur gardener, unless you are looking to grow prize winning crops, most vegetables are pretty simple to grow. Tomatoes, courgettes and pumpkins are definitely those that have worked best for us when started indoors. Early peas, carrots and beetroots are great crops as they can be sown outdoors earlier than other veggies and tend to be easy to grow. If you decide to chose heritage carrots seeds that are not bred for their resistance to carrot fly, I would recommend using netting to protect the crop. I have had a heartbroken child (and adult!) in the past when our crop was decimated and you will not know about it until you are digging the carrots up!
2) Go on a hunt (without leaving your garden!)
Whether it is hunting for all the minibeasts that have started coming out of their Winter hiding places or looking for signs of Spring, hunts are a great way to get children engaged in the garden. They also offer an opportunity for children to better understand the garden ecosystem and to discuss with them the importance of insects in the garden.
The Woodland Trust Nature Detectives resources are great for this.
If the objects in the hunt can be picked (not all plants can be picked and we should not remove insects from their habitat) children can then keep a diary of their finds or create special artwork with them. This is a great way for children to recollect Spring during the other seasons and can also be utilised to compare what happens in Spring to what happens during other seasons.
3) Build something
With 'build something' I don't mean build a treehouse, unless that is what you are into! Children love to make things (just leave them for 10 minutes near the recycling box to see how excited they can get!) so why not try utilising their passion to make simple objects for the garden. Who needs seeding pots and trays when you can make them out of newspaper, toilet rolls, egg boxes, yogurt pots and vegetables/fruit plastic containers? If you are more adventurous, you can have a go at making a bug hotel or a bird house. There are pre-prepared kits or you can make them with scraps of wood and/or other materials that you have at home.
Plastic milk bottles make great planters, I particularly like them to grow upside down tomato plants (works better with cherry tomatoes). If you have spare pieces of wood you can try making some planters, children can help you with the hammering, gluing and lining as well as painting the final masterpiece. They could personalise them by painting their names on them too.
4) Use nature as inspiration
Nature has inspired writers and painters for centuries so trying some 'al fresco' writing or painting/drawing is a great way for children to stop for a minute and take in the beauty of nature. This might be challenging with younger ones but those of school age should be used to focusing on specific topics for more than 5 minutes.
The garden is full of colours, smells and amazing shapes that can be described in writing or pictures. Flowers and leaves can be pressed to make beautiful pictures and suncatchers, twigs can be covered with colourful string or be used to make nature mobiles. The possibilities are endless as long as you use your imagination and that is something kids are really good at.
5) Plant something
You don't need to grow everything (or anything) from seed! Plants can be purchased or acquired from friends and family and planted indoors or outdoors. Vegetable plants are usually available to buy towards the middle/end of Spring as they need to be planted in the soil when the risk of frost has gone. This means that if your seeds haven't grown or you haven't had time to sow, you and your mini gardener can buy the plants together, discover how you need to care for them and decide who will look after the plant. If the child is older or fairly responsible they can potentially look after the plant themselves and even create a chart/diary that tracks what the plant needs and when it needs it. Adults can then help them in some of the care such as preparing and handling any feed. Younger children can be asked to help in watering the plant (ohhh the joy!!) and little by little gain more responsibility as they get more confidence.
What are your favourite Spring garden activities to do with kids? Please do share them!