It’s National Children’s Gardening Week (29th May – 6th June 2021), so now’s the perfect time to get the little ones growing! Gardening can provide a lifelong hobby with countless benefits for the mind and body. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a nervous novice, getting out into the garden is fantastic, especially when the whole family is involved. We’ve gathered together some fun and easy project ideas to get little ones started and hopefully inspire a lifetime love of plants and the outdoors.
If your child has lots of little figurines lying about, put them to good use in a sweet outdoor display. Start by choosing a hollow in the ground, plant pot or the base of a tree then collect stones, twigs and leaves to build paths and fences. Place little plastic fairies, animals, furniture and small buildings in and around the structure to create your desired scene, and decorate it with flowers, battery-powered fairy lights and sparkly beads. A fairy garden also gives little ones an opportunity to come up with imaginative stories to inspire their playtimes!
Did you know seed bombs were first used in New York City in the 1970s to ‘bomb’ vacant lots with flowers as a kind of ‘guerrilla gardening’? You can take the idea and do it in your own back garden. All you need to do is mix 5 parts clay with 1 part compost and 1 part seeds (a meadow flower mix works well). Add a couple of drops of water at a time to bind the mixture together and form a dough. Roll it into a ball and break off small pieces and form into little balls – you’ve just made seed bombs! Now throw them onto your lawn, anywhere you like, and wait for them to grow. Animals, insects and wind will help the seeds to spread out.
If you have slightly older children, chances are you might have a load of alphabet beads lying around (the kind used to make friendship bracelets). Put them to good use by making your own markers to place in flowerpots and beds. You’ll need some sturdy wire (florist’s wire works well) to thread the beads onto, spelling the name of the plant you’re marking. Great for hand-eye co-ordination too!
How many of us can remember our first planting experience? It probably involved cress seeds and a paper cup! This simple project is an oldie but a goodie, but you can make it more interesting by making a see-through version. Get a clear plastic cup or container and help your child line it with paper. Then, scrunch up some kitchen towels and stuff it inside the cup. Then, place cress seeds or dried beans in the space between the cup and the paper and carefully water the kitchen towel. Leave the cup in a sunny spot and watch the seeds grow, remembering to water regularly.
If you’re less than green-fingered, succulents are great place to start as they’re fairly low-maintenance and affordable. Jar-sized terrariums are also perfect for little hands – simply pick up a few tiny succulents from the garden centre and grab a jar. Then you’ll need to place gravel in the bottom and top it with a thin layer of soil, before placing your succulents on top and arranging them into a pretty formation. Gently press them into the soil and add a little water and more gravel to retain moisture and keep on a sunny windowsill.
If your little one is curious about creatures, they’ll love to create a mini pond to attract wildlife. You’ll need a large, shallow container (without drainage holes) filled with water and a selection of pond and marginal plants (include some oxygenating plants to help keep the water free of algae). Leave the container in a shady spot and over time it will attract a variety of insects, birds and perhaps even the odd frog!
Make use of an old bucket and turn it into a handy garden seat! All you need is a bucket that’s big enough to sit on and fill it with compost before sprinkling on some lawn seed. Grass grows relatively quickly, so task older children with trimming it every few weeks to keep it short and comfy enough for sitting on.
If your child has any old or unwanted toys, use them as fun planters. Things like vehicles, teapots, cups or anything with a large hole or space for soil and plants will work well, but keep in mind the larger the toy, the more plant options you’ll have. Succulents are a good option for small spaces and are easy to look after.
Many toddlers seem to love creepy crawlies, and whether you like them or not, they’re an important part of your garden’s ecosystem, particularly when it comes to pollination. Encourage mini beasts to make a visit, or even set up home by building a bug hotel. All you need is a sturdy box, drawer or an old birdhouse, along with bits and bobs from around the house like tubes, straws and bottles to create ‘rooms’, then you’ll stuff the gaps with natural materials from the garden such as twigs, leaves, acorns, flowers, moss and woodchips. Then, just wait for your little visitors to swing by!
Make use of scraps
Even if you don’t have a garden, you can still grow your own produce. And what’s more, you can grow vegetables from the scraps you’d otherwise throw out and literally need no special equipment. Leafy vegetables that grow in heads such as lettuce, pak choi and celery as well as root and bulb vegetables like spring onions, leeks, lemongrass, beetroot and turnip can all be regrown in a simple dish of water. All you need to do is place around an inch of scrap with the root attached and place it in ½ an inch of water. Refresh the water regularly and watch them grow!
Gardening toys we love