As gardeners we believe that a love of gardening will see you healthy and happy for a lifetime! If you want to give this gift to your children but aren’t sure how, we are here to help!
We are gardeners through and through and also foster parents. This means that we have a lot of experience of kids with little to no understanding of healthy eating or where their food comes from. You may be the same and find that your own children have no enthusiasm for getting their hands muddy. I have been chatting with some of my gardening friends who are also parents and we have put together a list of ways to sneak your kids into the garden!
There are so many ways to get outside and enjoy gardening, without just digging! Have a look to see where your own child may find the most fun and creativity from our list below!
Nature Garden’s As A Way To Get Kids Outside
- Appeal to their gross side. Children love the weird and fantastic but we forget how weird and fantastic the garden is! Make sure that they help out when it comes to turning over the compost bin, unearthing those wiggly critters is great fun, especially if you have a natures detective kit to help! They can get into nature while still indoors then you bring them outside with a bug container and magnifying glass like this one from Amoyee and they can hunt until it gets dark out, then use the torch!
- Feeding stations and bird baths are really under rated for their importance to British wildlife. You can be as creative as you like with bird feeders. Or go for a simple cone covered in a mix of lard and bird seed with a little grated cheese. Really messy and just the perfect project to undertake with children, outside! Please don’t do this in your kitchen as lard covered hands go everywhere!!
- Butterfly gardens and gardens for pollinators are so much fun to plan and watch fill. Choosing flowers with long periods of nectar production is key as well as plants that will allow caterpillars to thrive. Borage is a great plant for both of these roles and so easy to grow for kids.
- Bug hotels are so easy to make and create with kids. Children will be able to watch them being taken over by wildlife and you can collect pine cones, leaves, acorns and other organic materials like feathers whenever you are out for a walk. This way you can customize it to your families memories and days out. No two bug hotels will be the same. As long as the material is all biodegradable and there is an area for nesting, warming up and making your own, then the bugs will move in. If the thought of this DIY project fills you with dread then why not buy a ready made one, garden mile do a lovely range!
- Nest boxes and bird houses are great as a way to encourage children and wildlife to your garden! The more involved the kids are the better and learning how to make their own birdhouse will be a fun activity, Tacobear have a make and paint your own birdhouse kit here.
- Tree houses make for brilliant hiding places to watch wildlife from. So once you have made your feeding stations and habitats, why not go for a fun house on stilts that can double as a hide and get a pair of binoculars and a pad of paper with a pencil for the kids?
Gardening For Artistic And Creative Kids
- You have to pitch this one correctly depending on your children. We have a potions laboratory or a perfume making kitchen on any given day. The basics are the same and you will have as much fun making these either way. You will need a large heat proof bowl, some cloth and adult supervision. Use the morning to gather up flower heads and a few petals, choose ones that have finished their bloom. Mix in all sorts of flowers and colors. Then put the cloth over the mixing bowl. Rip all of the flowers up with your hands and put them onto the cloth. An adult will then pour boiling water over the top and gather the cloth to form a bunch and leave it to soak in the bowl. Pop a plate over to cover it and leave overnight. In the morning Take the cloth with the petals out and make sure non have floated into your perfume water. Then you can either reduce it further or bottle it up for storage in a clean plastic bottle. If left in the dark you should have potion or perfume for around 3 weeks. A good length of time to use it in your ‘experiments’ or fairy garden as needed.
- One of our children would have turned her stomach at the thought of mud on her hands. However paint was on them all the time and that was perfectly fine! If this sounds like your kids then you may have a lot of luck with pot painting. The wonderful thing about this is it can be very age appropriate. Go from a dab of color here and there to full on William Morris inspired grandeur. No specialist kits needed but as a gift set you can’t go far wrong with an all in one kit with metal pots and pens for painting like this one via Amazon. It worked for us as they are in hanging pots that can be put into the kids own little area. That way each of them had 4 pots and then they decorated them in their own unique style. The youngest one kept the tools as they worked for him, whereas his sister got her own child friendly garden tool set as a later gift.
- Plant markers are a perfect way to get your creative kids to help plan the garden, well before seeds are even ordered. We have an article just on how to make your own herb plant markers here. Range from painted stones, to wooden cutlery repurposed as named markers. It is also a sneaky way of getting them to learn a few spellings as well. Very much a wet weather activity for children. If you are using pens that can paint on stone, just remember it can also write on kitchen cupboards and the floor. Basically what I am saying is newspaper down and aprons on for using these with adult guidance.
- Pumpkins are an easy plant to grow successfully and the kids love them come Halloween. You can add a competitive element by seeing who can grow the largest or the weirdest looking one. Or just grow them and harvest for a lantern! Children will then start to ask about cooking with the flesh and you can get really good value from a few seeds.
- For those who are really creative a flower press can be a great way to enjoy what they have grown. Small Foot Company do a lovely wooden flower press that you can check out here which I promise you will bring back some fond childhood memories for so many. It even has those wing nuts in the corner that you have to twiddle to get the perfect flatness. It is relatively straightforward to follow and we have found it to be one of those activities that the children enjoy by themselves. Which is sort of ideal when you want a bit of time to get on with the real time consuming gardening stuff yourself.
- Get your children their own child sized tools. This will give them a sense of ownership, then gift them a piece of the garden. This stops my heart from racing when they stand over my bulbs or dig up any rhizomes I have waiting to grow next season. I’m not talking about getting them toy tools but real ones that they can actually use. Even down to a child sized watering can and wheelbarrow! Trust me it cuts down on how many plants of yours will get drowned or run over!! Little Pals are a great brand for tools that they can actually use and they will look so cute! They include a pair of child sized gloves as well and this is a game changer. Our children can be keen to learn but want to be as good as us straightaway, a pair of gloves and tools that are their size can help so much!
- Use twigs, leaves, petals, pebbles, feathers and anything else you can find to write words. Start with the child’s name and then see how you can develop it to suit their age range. Create pictures from leaves with pebbles as bellies and twigs as legs, moss as hair etc. This works well for any time of year as your artistic materials will change with the seasons.
- Do you remember drawing a hopscotch on the pavement outside your house? Well those days may have changed and it may now be a better idea to do it in your own garden, so why not get some chalk? Artbox sell jumbo pavement chalks, here that are washable and fun for Summer holidays. Your children can draw any scene they like and include natural materials from a scavenger hunt in the garden as well. The sun can be made out of moss while the sun rays are leaves, that sort of thing.
Child- Friendly Grow Your Own Projects
- Grow a pizza garden. Depending on the size of your plot you can mark out a large circle. Then divide this up to grow tomatoes, oregano, parsley, garlic and peppers. We find that intergrowing with flowers will also lend the look of a pizza. For real cuteness why not include Walking onions? They are so much fun for kids to watch as they ‘walk’ around the garden growing in new places where they have fallen. Make sure to harvest the ingredients with the kids before making your own homemade pizzas. The BBC have some great recipes here.
- Flower fairy gardening can be a really quick way to get kids hooked. We have the Complete Book Of The Flower Fairies which you can order via amazon here. Now be sensible and get yourself familiar with this book before passing on to the kids! You don’t want them to love a flower that you would hate to have to maintain, so go for ones you want and then tag the book up. We say that we have heard of sightings of these particular fairies and then plant them in the hopes of spotting some ourselves. Our kids are too young for social media so we even throw in that the local Facebook group has seen fairies in the roads by ours.
- Sunflower growing competitions can be great for most ages of children. We find that the younger ones just give it a go and need guidance on watering but the older they get the more this becomes a family tradition. Start by getting them to make a seed starter pot that is biodegradable. This is fun as it shows them a bit about reusing material so depending on where they are in their key stages this can tie in with school very well. We give prizes for height but also the size of the flower head. Thompson & Morgan do a Russian giant variety which is easy to grow and gives a wonderful yellow flower. Once the sunflowers have grown we can harvest to eat ourselves or leave for the wildlife, so choose a spot where you can observe the birds in Winter.
- Rainbow Unicorn Garden! If you have a little girl in your life you will already know the power of unicorn anything. We have a lot of enjoyment in our house by using all of the colors in their hair. So why not re-create this in the garden? Planting echinacea alongside Hyssop and Calendula can offer a great clash of color which really seems to make an eight year old girl happy.
- Bamboo teepee for beans and sweetpeas. It creates the perfect hiding space for children, but can take up a bit more space than you might think. Also don’t mix the edible climbers with toxic climbers as then you will have an accident waiting to happen!
- Grow fast foods! It’s not unfair to say that children like a quick result and we find that growing some quick herbs has a much bigger impact in their confidence in their own abilities than anything else. Once they get really grounded with their skills then you may want to introduce some longer term plants, but for now get them hooked with quick results.
- Grow indestructible plants. Again I sound really cruel here but our rosemary will be pretty much drought tolerant and because we have grown it in well draining soil it can take an over water every now and then. Whereas if we were to try and grow a more tender plant like basil the over enthusiasm of the kids may well kill it within a week. Overwatering is the main culprit here, perhaps we could call it a bit too much love and attention?
How To Build A Fairy Garden With The Children
- Before you start your fairy garden you must be wearing a fairy head dress! We find that a daisy chain is suitable for such an undertaking. All children and adults must make one of these as a way to show that you are ready to start fairy construction work! Pick a long stem daisy, make a vertical slit in it with your thumbnail. Make sure it doesn’t go all the way to the bottom and then take your next daisy and do the same, slipping it into the first daisy’s slit. Keep going until you have a headdress or daisy chain necklace. This will get you all in the mood for creativity and the kids love this simple skill.
- Will your fairy kingdom need a flag? Most Countries do have one so ask your child to design their own one, using scraps of material to make a quilt like effect and use a bamboo stick cut down as the flag pole. This is a cunning ploy by us parents to get the kids to think about the outside space even through Winter and wet days. You can incorporate sewing if your children are that way inclined, or go for PVA glue to stick it all down. The flag can be as unique as your kids and have some colors that you want to repeat in the planting as well. A fairy flag is a winner in our house and it has even encouraged a Viking kingdom to move in nearby as well, but I blame horrible histories for that one!
- Gather feathers, leaves, flowers or nice cones through the year as well as any seashells you may find. We have an ongoing tub on the windowsill in the kitchen which we can empty pockets into when the need arises. At the moment it is full of acorns, some with hats some naked.
- We have some tree stumps and have positioned these by digging them in a little. Then the children have enjoyed making front doors for the fairies to live in. Just pieces of cardboard cut to size and painted in various bright colors. We are a make your own kind of a family but if you are not a confident DIY-er then have a look at a ready made pair of doors here.
- Add some solar lights and a few more gathered treasures and you are ready to make the space your own.
- Lay it out like a village square and have a few houses on the edge, but allow the centre to be designed by what materials you have. So we use pine cones to line the village green and then have a few feathers stuck up as points of interest.
Gardening For Children With No Garden
- Windowsill gardens are great for kids, as long as you can get a lot of reward for your effort. For us, cress is the answer for all ages and this is a great way to introduce a bit of healthy taste into their diets as well.
- A love of gardening can come from visiting great gardens as well. Children are no different to us and what will spark their imagination could spark ours too. We have a family membership to The National Trust which has been fantastic during the lockdown as we can still get into the countryside to see our local property.
- Get the kids involved with something interactive like the RSPB Birdwatch. You don’t need a garden, but it can bring you into looking for nature, even from your window. Learning which birds are which in their own area can give them a sense of ownership. Wildlife spotting from your window!
- Sunflowers will grow well in pots on a balcony or why not try a hanging basket if garden space is limited? Children can manage the watering every day and if they grow a herby hanging basket they will even be able to eat what they grow too!
- Older children do enjoy growing micro herbs and will happily use them to ‘masterchef’ their meal. We have each of our children work towards being able to cook one meal a week in our home, this gives them ownership of the food as well as life skills, but we do a funny little marking scheme. Sometimes we can play around with the simplest meal and dress it up with a sprig or two of micro herbs, you really need just the space of an envelope to grow your own and it is quick! Kind of perfect for kids and especially those without a garden space.
- You and your children can make an indoor fairy garden and cottage. You will need a stiff piece of cardboard, a balloon, PVA glue, a brush and plenty of newspaper and paints. Blow up the balloon and place into a bowl with the tied end down. Mix your PVA glue two parts to one part water. Then shred your newspaper and using the brush and glue mixture paint it on to your balloon. Leave only the knot uncovered and try to get it the same thickness all round, two or three layers is usually enough. Leave it to dry thoroughly! Meanwhile paint your cardboard green and perhaps pop a path on it using sand and glue and pebbles to line it. Make some windows using paper and paint them to be stained glass etc. Make a door in much the same way. Once your balloon is dry, pop it and remove the remains. The cottage is now taking shape and ready to be painted white. Go outside and gather up some leaves for the roof and cover it, starting from the middle and moving out. Then stick on your windows and doors. Decorate the fairy garden with any other interesting leaves or feathers you have found.
Gardening For Slightly Older Children
- Their own little space with a seating area and lights, perfect for getting away from us boring adults. If you have children who are entering into exam periods you will find that they either stay indoors studying or stay indoors avoiding studying. Either way it is always good to have a little haven outside for them, ready to help get them out without forcing them to join in.
- Planning and digging a pond can be very satisfying. I remember having lots of fun as a kid making areas for the frogs to climb out and then watching as they all arrived and made it their home. There are so many other interesting bugs and beetles that will all arrive and become a very mindful place to sit and relax. If you follow the link to here you will find a vey useful tutorial for a real wildlife friendly habitat.
- As children get older so their taste buds mature, so we encourage ours to grow a wider variety of herbs and vegetables. We then meal plan around the seasons and when the crops will be ready. Eating what you grow can be a way to placate fussy eaters in adolescence. While we are on this subject we have a little healthy competition between two older boys when it comes to how much horseradish they can take on their Sunday roast, so why not get them growing that as it is so much hotter when fresh!
- wildlife video areas are great for amateur photographers or keen environmentalists alike. Children love teh technology aspect as well as the wildlife and it will be something they can enjoy for a long time. A very basic model with night vision and motion detection is available from Victure, click here for more details. The set up is easy and if you have a nature habitat already in situ you are good to go, if not it can become a bigger project to create a wildlife refuge.
- Smoothies were a real opener for us. Once we started talking about healthy treats for the Summer the kids went straight to smoothies and we started looking at fruiting berry bushes. Strawberries, raspberries and our little apple tree are now beloved by the kids. We even freeze the smoothies into healthy ice lollies.
- Why not make a science experiment from your gardening endeavors? Will the seeds germinate in total darkness or do they need heat and a lamp? You can record your findings and expand on your theories as you go. A nice way to incorporate home schooling with the curriculum as well.
- Make their own bird houses and bird feeding stations. The more unique the better! It is great as a little project for kids of all ages but as they get older they can take more control of the design and construction.
- Get them a garden centre gift voucher. It can be part of a budgeting lesson or as a fun Christmas gift, but couple it with the physical catalogue for the online company or store. Then they can highlight it and revisit to get the right mix for their own little spot. If you choose a respected online nursery like Suttons then you will get the products as they come into season and this will help with your children’s success in the garden. Setting them up for a fail by going to cheaper places can sometimes not help in the long term.
I believe in getting stuck in when it comes to introducing children to the joys of gardening. If you can show them your love, then they will feel the same. But pushing them can be the worst thing to do, so get them outside and get them enjoying being there!