LOCKED down and off school, children will be spending much more time at home for the foreseeable future.
So why not get them in your garden while they are young and enthusiastic for all things new?
Gardening is as good a choice as any to help them learn about and understand nature, develop new skills and teach them to stay healthy.
It will also get them playing outside in the fresh air and away from YouTube and the Xbox!
Instead they will enjoy messing around in the mud and soaking things in water – things we all know they love to do!
Getting the next generation into gardening covers a lot of bases in a child’s learning and development and perhaps one of the most beneficial areas is the kitchen garden – growing your own vegetables and fruit.
Sowing the seeds
Growing their own food will stir a child’s enjoyment of digging the soil, scattering seeds and watching them grow – topped off with the added bonus of eating the produce and all you need is a small patch of spare garden or a space for a raised bed. Even just a few pots or a grow bag will do to start off with.
The fact they’re growing their own fruit and vegetables is as good an incentive as any to get them to eat more of them as the attraction of a new and interesting shaped plant will entice them on to foods they may previously have pushed around the plate!
Growing their own will not only encourage them to eat their greens as they know where they’ve come from but also dispel the myth that all their food comes in tins and packets from the supermarket.
Potatoes are a great choice as there’s something physical to handle before putting in the ground, they’ll produce big plants and produce a decent crop which is instantly recognisable.
But, most importantly, they’ll eat them – mashed up or otherwise – with most foods.
Carrots too are a good selection for the same reasons as, just like parsnips and onions, kids love to pull them out of the earth to reveal the crops they’ve grown.
Faster cropping veg like radishes and beetroot will produce quick results to appease an impatient child though they may be preferred by older children.
Tomatoes are a favourite as their fruit are a tasty treat, they are quick growing and produce a plentiful harvest.
The real plus with toms is they need watering regularly, particularly in pots or growbags, so your kids will be able to play with water all the time – ideal for any junior firefighters in the family!
A mini herb garden of rosemary, thyme, mint and parsley is another, easy-to-plant, edible plot which will encourage their sense of smell as well as taste. Lavenders and curry plants in a border will also give off an interesting scent.
Once your children have grown their own produce it’s important to let them help prepare the food for the table by washing earth off produce out of the ground or by picking crops off plants above the ground.
Away from the kitchen garden, wildlife watching has an obvious appeal to kids and it’s easy to encourage more insects and animals into your garden.
You don’t have to turn your plot into a wildlife garden per se rather, next time you’re able to, make sure you get a a few choice perennials or shrubs to bring the wildlife in for you.
Go wild for wildlife
Plants to choose include lavenders (bees and butterflies) and buddleias (butterflies) while honeysuckles encourage moths.
Bees love wildflowers like cornflowers, foxgloves and marsh marigolds while plants like rosemary and hollyhocks attract them too.
Seeing the insects busily working away will inspire children to ask questions and learn what they are and what they are doing.
Young twitchers will get to see more birds if you cut back on pesticide sprays in the garden.
The birds will flock back to munch up the aphids off your roses while an initial rise in pesky slugs and snails should soon be quelled by the arrival of frogs and toads to gobble them up!
Best of all, as with growing our own fruit and veg, this more organic attitude to gardening is a great path for your kids to go down for the future benefit of the environment they will inherit from us.