How to get children interested in gardening
When I was little, we used to spend our holidays in Spain, visiting my family there. I remember my Grandmother Rosa’s patio with dozens of terracotta pots filled with colourful flowers. She loved plants and flowers and I’ve probably inherited my interest in gardening from her, my Mum’s Mum. Rosa died when I was very young, but I remember her plants and her love for them. I now know from looking at photographs, that they were Hydrangeas. I must admit that I have a soft spot for them.
When my own children were small, I always tried to make them see the beauty in nature around us. I used to point out unusual trees, we collected leaves, smelled flowers… and they were able to see how magical and beautiful it all was. My parents, the children’s grandparents, were just as enthusiastic about involving them in their garden. My mother always saved her strawberries for my daughter to pick and my Dad would take the boys blackberry picking and told them all about the herbs that were growing in the mountains where he lived.
Children have a natural love for nature and the outdoors. It’s a good idea to nurture this and to encourage them, as it brings so many benefits for their health and well-being. If you are lucky enough to have a garden, there is a lot you can do to include them and encourage them to garden with you.
#1 Give plants and flowers a name
Giving different plants names that children can relate to makes them feel that they are friends, and it promotes the idea to be kind and caring to plants. Some of the names you could give them are obvious (you could call a rosebush ‘Rosie’ for example), but you can make up any name you like. Children love stories and you could incorporate their new friend in story telling, so that they become familiar characters. This works particularly well with young children.
I planted Alchemilla Mollis along our path in the front garden and told my daughter that this was ‘Molly’. I told her Molly was special and needed to be looked after. My daughter used to come home from school and say “hello Molly” every time she went past it. I pointed out how beautiful Molly was when it rained and that she was wearing little pearls or crystals, depending on what the raindrops looked like.
#2 Give them their own piece of garden
If you have the space, give them a small patch that they can call their own to plant or dig. It’s best if this patch isn’t too big or it may become too much for them. You could put a little sign post with their name in it so that they feel that this is their very own growing space. Or you could spell out their name with stones at the front of the patch. Anything to personalise this space will encourage them to look after it.
#3 Find easy plants for them to grow quickly
Children like to see the results of their efforts quickly and unfortunately gardening can be a long waiting game! Best start them off with plants that have instant impact instead of planting seeds. You can let them plant herbs like mint, rosemary or thyme or fast growing plants like nasturtiums or marigolds. Or plant small strawberry plants that will keep them fascinated by picking their fruit. All of these plants have ‘special powers’ like smell, taste or colour.
#4 Plant seeds to teach patience
Instant results are great and will keep your children interested, but it is also important to teach them that some things are worth waiting for. Let them choose their own seeds to grow, but let them choose from things that will germinate fairly quickly so that the wait doesn’t seem too long. Sunflower seeds, nasturtiums, marigolds, peas, beans, zinnias and poppies all germinate fairly quickly. They will be fascinated once they see the little plant sprouting. There is a range of seeds for sale that cater especially for children.
#5 Give them their own tools
Children like nothing better than to copy us grown-ups. But our tools are far too big and heavy for their little hands. Much better to provide them with their own small, child-friendly tools so that they can garden like a pro! There are many nice child-friendly garden tools available for any budget.
Above all, have fun!
I’m a great believer in getting children interested in gardening as soon as possible. Of course not everybody is lucky to have a garden but we can be indoor gardeners if we have no outside space. A window-sill with a few pots makes a great little indoor gardening space. Some towns offer community gardening projects where children are very welcome and if you live in the UK, you will be familiar with allotments. The National Allotment Society has a lot of helpful information on their website.
Whatever you do, have lots of fun together, and let me know your experiences and thoughts in the comments. Would love to hear your take on this subject.
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