Thursday, 18 January 2018

How to get your children in the garden

There are many activities to do in the garden that can make it a hobby suitable for all of the family. As well as being something different for the children to experience, it can also be beneficial for their wellbeing and education. Together with Suttons, an online retailer of vegetable seeds and a gardening expert, we take a look at the benefits of gardening for children and ways to encourage their participation.

Why should children be spending time in the garden?


There are many advantages for children that come with spending time in the garden. This is from both a well-being and educational perspective.

Consider this concerning statistic — prison inmates spend more time outside than three-quarters of UK children. Children are becoming more interested in tablets and smartphones and tend to spend more time in the house. Gardening is a great way to get them involved with something different outside.

One advantage of encouraging younger children to play in the garden is the development of their sensory skills. Some findings include:

· After participating in a one-year gardening programme as part of their school curriculum, children aged 8-11 showed a significant increase in the ability to work in groups compared to those children who didn’t participate at all.

· Children who grow their own food are more likely to eat fresh fruits and vegetables or at least express a preference for these foods.

· Youth interns in community gardens reported increases in maturity and interpersonal skills.

· Students expressed an increased understanding of ecology and responsibility to care for the environment.

Activities to introduce in the garden


There are lots of games and learning-oriented activities that you can try out in the garden. As well as having structured games, it can be good to let your child take the lead on what they want to do in the garden. They might use their own imagination to come up with an activity that you can both get involved in.

For example, why not create a DIY bird feeder? This is easy enough to do:

1. Create 2 holes opposite each other at the bottom of the bottle, insert a stick through this and this will become a perch

2. Make feeding holes close to the perch (not too big or else the feed will fall out)

3. Create holes in the neck of the bottle, you can pass string through here and hang the bottle from a branch

4. Unscrew the lid and fill with seeds for the birds!

With younger children, allow them to discover! Guide them around the garden and search for clues to which animals have visited. This could be in the form of feathers, tiny tracks or snail trails.

Home-grown produce


Encourage dietary changes and curiosity around garden plants and vegetables by growing produce with your children. This is a good way for them to get regularly involved in the garden and monitor their own progress.

Grow a tree


To grow a tree takes a lot of care and time, but the results are worth it as children can see how their tree is developing over time.

Some easy-to-grow trees are:

· Conkers. These can be collected from a horse chestnut tree

· Acorns from an oak tree

· Helicopters from a sycamore tree

All of the seeds above can be planted in a pot with simply soil and compost. It is likely that it will be around spring when the seed sprouts — you may have to transfer it to a bigger pot eventually.

Seeds


Planting seeds is a good, interactive activity that encourages your child’s involvement in the garden. Vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and spring onions are all easy to grow and maintain.

When children grow their own produce, it’s likely that they’ll want to eat it too!

There are many plants that are exciting to watch grow. Suttons sell a range of fun seeds that have been designed for children. These include:

· Cress — a fast-growing plant that can be grown indoors and outdoors and added to a salad afterwards.

· Sunflowers — tall growing so children can practise their measuring skills as it grows.

· A Mimosa Pudica (a dancing plant) that when it is touched, its leaves ‘dance’ and curl up tightly.

Garden-based activities and games are endless! Get outdoors and get involved with your child and you’ll soon see the benefits!

Sources
http://www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/gardening_with_children/
https://www.wyevalegardencentres.co.uk/cms/tips-and-advice/garden-inspiration/gardening-with-children/
http://kidsinthegarden.co.uk/plants-for-kids/growing-vegetables-with-children/
http://www.peecworks.org/peec/peec_reports/01795CA8-001D0211.32/CYE_FactSheet3_Benefits%20of%20Gardening%20for%20Children_August%2020.pdf
http://www.growingschools.org.uk/Resources/Downloads/RHS-Gardening-in-Schools.pdf
http://www.peartreechildcare.co.uk/blog/the-importance-of-messy-and-sensory-play/
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/25/three-quarters-of-uk-children-spend-less-time-outdoors-than-prison-inmates-survey 

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