As the weather warms up, it’s time to shed the coats and fire up the imagination to encourage the grandkids to get into the garden.
Lee Connelly, podcaster and gardener on a children’s TV show, says it’s all about getting kids out of the house.
“A study by the National Trust UK has found that children nowadays are spending half the amount of time outdoors as we used to when we were younger,” says Mr Connelly. “Getting outside is all about creating memories as a family. Just getting out there, playing games and stimulating the imagination is what it’s all about.”
Fancy getting the grandkids outside for some green-fingered fun? Here, with help from his four-year-old daughter, Olive, Mr Connelly offers six tips on how to encourage kids to get off their screens and into the great outdoors.
1. Give them their own space
Let them have their own patch in your vegetable bed or garden. If you have limited space, use any old bowl or container, put holes in the base for drainage and you have an instant container garden.
Good crops to plant include salad items and other fast-growing vegetables, so the kids can see the results quickly. “Their own space gives them a sense of responsibility. Just be there for guidance,” says Mr Connelly.
2. Encourage them to grow their own
A vegetable patch is a great starting point and an excellent way for them to develop an understanding of where fresh food comes from.
You’ll be surprised how many more vegies kids are likely to accept on the dinner plate when they’ve grown them with their own hands.
“My daughter didn’t used to like eating vegetables much, until she started growing them,” says Mr Connelly. “But start them off growing something they like eating, or they won’t care about it as much.”
But to really keep their interest, they have to do more than just watering and weeding. Try to arrange it so they can help out with the sowing and harvesting, too.
Create a kid-friendly landscape in their own dedicated area by marking it with raised beds, garden ornaments, or outdoor solar lights. Give them a choice of what to grow and you won’t be able to keep them away.
3. Have the right sized tools
Size appropriate tools can make all the difference. Snug gloves and hand tools designed for small hands will make it a lot easier for children to help out and will also be more comfortable. A large watering can, for example, will be too heavy to lift but a mini one or a water bottle with holes in the cap will be a lot more manageable.
4. Aim for seeds with quick results
Kids will respond better to plants that grow and/or germinate quickly. Most of the early action happens under the dirt when growing seeds. It can take a while before you see any movement after sowing.
To keep them interested in the first few days, fold a few green bean or sugar snap pea seeds inside some damp kitchen paper and have the grandkids spray them with water to keep them moist. Let them peer inside the towel over a few days to check on the seeds and watch the roots grow. Once the first set of leaves start to appear, they can be planted in the garden. Gently cover the whole thing with soil and the leaves will pop above ground in a day or two.
5. Encourage wildlife
Children will be engaged when they see butterflies, beetles and other bugs. You can try making butterfly fizzy pop by mixing a sugary drink for them. Get a plastic bottle, put a water and sugar mix in the bottle and give it a shake to dilute it, then stuff a sponge into the neck of the bottle and hang it upside down in the garden with string. The sugary mixture will seep through the sponge, creating a magnet for butterflies.
6. Get crafty
You don’t just have to be growing to spend time in the garden. Why not try making a scarecrow, bird feeder or some pretty plant labels? Find some smooth rocks for the children to paint and leave them in the garden for them to find each time they visit.
You could even try making a runner bean teepee. Create a wigwam out of bamboo, leaving a space for the entrance. You can then dig a trench around where it needs to be placed, ready to plant runner beans at the end of spring or beginning of summer.
The beans will grow around the wigwam and provide shelter, as well as some delicious beans. You can move it each year around the garden. Line the floor with bark, gravel or matting for the kids to sit on.
Do you try to spend time outside when the grandkids are visiting? Do you have any other tips for our readers?
– With PA
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