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5 gardening activities for children

By Grow Your Own magazine
04th April 2024

Have you got little ones at home, or are you looking after youngsters during the Easter holidays? There’s a huge amount of enjoyment to be had outside on the veg plot if you’re young and energetic - here are five fun gardening activities for children this spring…

Have fun with quirky containers
Gardeners have been known to sow crops in the strangest places – bath tubs, abandoned sinks and even old wellies. If you don’t have space on your plot to give your children a patch of their own, you might find a fun container of home-grown veg could be the next best thing. Talk to your kids about the old toys they could turn into unusual pots. Younger children may need a hand when it comes to picking out practical choices – while potato sacks can produce bumper crops, cuddly animals are likely to rot if they’re turned into a grow bag. Plastic objects will be more easily recycled into containers for growing fruit or veg. Leaky seaside buckets, uninhabitable dolls houses and broken toy trucks can all be turned into pots without too much trouble. Once your children have chosen a container an adult will need to make drainage holes in the bottom with a drill or similar sharp object. Get your children to choose which crop to grow depending on the shape and size of the pot. Shallow-rooted salad leaves can be sown in small spaces, while heavy-feeders will need more space. Fast-growing veg or young plants might be the easiest choice as they will allow children to enjoy quick results. Fill the pot with a suitable growing medium – loam-based compost works best for most veg – and plant or sow your chosen crop according to the nursery’s or seed packet’s instructions.

Write words with seeds
You don’t need to sit indoors all day to teach kids to read and write. If your children are just learning their ABCs why not encourage them to grow their names in veg? Cut the top off a grow bag and lightly moisten the compost inside before helping your children spell out their names with cress, mustard or salad leaf seeds sown on the surface. Or if rainy weather’s keeping you off the plot, place damp kitchen paper on a tray to do the same indoors. Keep the kitchen paper or compost damp and within a few days your children’s names will appear!

Make a cress head
It’s rare to get through a UK summer without the occasional rainy day. Cress can easily be grown indoors, making it a good gardening project whatever the weather. Impatient young children won’t need to wait long for a crop – cress is ready to harvest only a week or so after sowing. The seeds germinate easily and can be grown on wet cotton wool or kitchen paper. Make sowing more exciting by drawing a funny face on a hollow egg shell and using it as a miniature plant pot – the head will grow bright green cress hair!

Go on a slug and snail hunt
Depending on your opinion (and your child’s demeanour) this could be seen either as a fantastic game of hide and seek or a cunning ploy for encouraging juvenile pest control. Children can be remarkably unsqueamish when it comes to things that creep, slither and slime around the garden so you could be onto a winner – and a slug-free garden. Because slugs and snails tend to hide away in the heat of the day, it will keep little gardeners entertained for ages if mid-afternoon is the time they choose to go on a hunt. Older children who are allowed to stay up that bit later can be accompanied into the garden at twilight, torch in hand, when these pests are much more likely to be crawling about. Friend or foe All your child needs is a bucket, a pair of fingers, and the ability to positively identify a slug and a snail – and possibly the added incentive of a financial reward for every mollusc collected! A rummage in the undergrowth will also uncover non-pest creatures such as spiders, worms and even the odd frog or toad. This is a great opportunity to explain to children that not all garden beasts are baddies, and can provide youngsters with a really close-up encounter of otherwise secretive wildlife. It goes without saying that a thorough washing of the hands should be the last job on the list once the hunters return!

Make a bee house
Mason bees are solitary bees – they live alone, aren’t aggressive and don’t make honey. And, they are excellent pollinators – perfect neighbours for your fruit and veg plot. The females spend most of their adult life looking for hollow stems in which they can lay their eggs. You can make a home for mason bees – complete with garden – in a quiet corner outdoors. Start by finding a small terracotta pot, and some hollow bamboo or reed stems. Use some strong secateurs to cut them all to the same length as the pot. Next, take a lump of modelling clay and push it into the bottom of the container to form a thick layer, and then push the hollow stems into the clay until the pot is full and all the canes are snug to the rim. Then tie raffia or string around the pot and hang it up in a sunny, sheltered spot for the bees – make sure the open end points slightly downwards, to ensure no rain gets in. Provide them with a garden to accompany their new home by planting herbs like borage, marjoram, mint, rosemary, sage or thyme nearby. Their flowers will provide the bees with pollen, which contains vital proteins and fats, and nectar which is full of energy-giving sugars. Plant them in clumps – this will make them more attractive to the bees.

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