In these tough economic times, we thought it might be useful to put together some [...]
Gardening with grandchildrenCreated by Jane Jackson in Age: At School, Age: Baby & Toddler, Age: Pre-school, Things to do
We are all aware that some of our young people, and ourselves for that matter, don’t get out enough. That we have a generation of children growing up who are not getting the right amount of exercise.
I am not going to suggest going to an expensive gym or the need to run a marathon, its simple. Get out into your garden, with your grandchildren.
Being able to share a growing space, designing it, planting it and watching it grow is one of life’s wonders. It doesn’t matter if you are a novice gardener yourself, you and your grandchildren can learn together. Some of my fondest memories’ of my granddaughter are when we dug, planted and got muddy together in the garden. Her enthusiasm was infectious.
As with most things with children they expect to get instant results, so always start with plants that will grow quickly, especially for the youngest ones.
You can of course just start with buying a packet of cress seeds and using the shell of a boiled egg that is cut in half popping in some kitchen paper, sprinkle a few seeds on the top of the paper, water and within a few days up pops the cress, what is more you can then make sandwiches and eat it!
Sunflowers are always great, pop a seed into a pot and when germinated and the fear of frosts have gone, explain to your grandchildren that these flowers like the sun so ask them where would be a good place to plant them? Plant lots of them and have a competition to see whose is the tallest. Once the flowers are over you can leave them on the plant as the birds will come and eat the seed heads.
Isn’t Autumn/Winter a bad time for gardening?
Every season offers something in the garden.
In the autumn, it is a time for planning; the children can choose bulbs for flowering in the Spring. The leaves that are in abundance in the autumn, creating a magic carpet of colours, can create their own fun. It is good to explain to children how important our gardens are for wildlife, so encourage things like, making a den with the fallen leaves for hedgehogs and insects.
Gathering leaves and making a huge mound to break down for putting on the flower beds later is a good opportunity to talk about how leaves will break down in about a year and help to put goodness back into the soil, as all plants need food to grow – just like us.
Just because winter arrives and Jack Frost is nibbling at your toes, doesn’t mean you can’t go out into the garden. Wrap up warm, scarf, hat and boots, and you are ready for anything. It is a good time to make sure the bird feeders are well stocked, always have a variety of different seeds, for instance, to attract goldfinches have a special feeder with niger seed as its their favourite. The shape of their beak enables them to use feeders with a very small hole, just for them. With help from granny or grandpa children can cut up different sizes of bamboo canes and tie or glue them together to make a house for ladybirds and other insects.
Spring is when growing really starts and you and your grandchildren can plan for the summer months. The list of flowers and plants is endless but look for easy-to-grow seeds, such as calendula (pot marigold), nasturtiums, nigella (love in a mist) to name just three.
Children love to have their own ‘plot’ and it doesn’t have to be large, just a small space that is theirs. A space for them to nurture their own plants.
But we don’t have a garden…
Not everyone has a garden, but that certainly doesn’t mean that your grandchildren can’t learn about how plants grow and what care they need to thrive.
A window box is one way; you could have one for flowers and one for herbs. You can buy one or how about making your own, just a few pieces of old wood, a plastic liner (an old compost bag works well) make sure there are drainage holes, your grandchildren can then paint the outside of the box. Fill with any ordinary compost.
In fact, there is no end to what you can grow plants in, an old pair of wellies, shoes, handbags (not the Gucci one!), a teapot, a bucket… the list is as long as a child’s imagination.
If you are growing indoors, how about insect eating plants!? The children love them; venus fly traps or cobra lily plants. Another lovely plant is the sensitive plant, when you gently stroke the leaves it curls up.
There is a large variety of ‘tools’ for children, I would suggest a small watering can, a small trowel and fork and a pair of small gardening gloves all of which I’ve found online as one sweet little kit in pink and blue, available from Amazon at just over £12.
Always remind the children to wash their hands thoroughly after gardening.
I can promise you that you will never forget that look of sheer wonder in their eyes as they gaze at that happy, sunny face of their very own sunflower.
by Jane Jackson