With summer warming up, Nicky Roeber, Online Horticultural Expert at Wyevale Garden Centres, shares five garden activities that will get your kids outside and having fun.
Have you looked at the calendar recently? It’s nearly that time of year when the schools up and down the country close their doors and you need to find six weeks’ worth of engaging ideas to keep the kids entertained. However, I’d like to propose that, instead of firing up Netflix or buying them the latest video game, you should aim to get your kids involved in a spot of fun in the garden — here’s why. Nowadays, children aren’t getting enough time outdoors. In fact, they only spend half as much time playing outside as their parents did, according to a survey by the National Trust. Not only does this mean they are missing out on essential exercise and light exposure, but they aren’t able to learn as much about nature or wildlife, either. So, getting your kids involved in some fun garden activities is a great way to make sure they’re not missing out on an essential part of their childhood.
To help you out, I’ve put together four garden project ideas below that should be enough to get you started.
I’ll start by recommending an old classic: planting some sunflowers and watching them grow. They are a big favourite among kids thanks to their impressive height and large, colourful flowers, making them the ideal choice for a summer gardening project. Once your shoots begin to show, get your kids to keep a log of their progress and water the flowers on a daily basis. Sunflowers are a very easy to care for. They can be sown straight into the ground: simply choose a weed-free spot that gets plenty of sunlight, rake the soil so that it has a fine and crumbly texture, dig a 12mm deep hole, then bury the seed. If you’re growing multiple plants, make sure you leave about 10cm between each seed. There are many species available that grow to different heights, so choose one that will be manageable for your space. Your flowers may require a support cane as they grow.
For young children, encouraging them to keep a garden diary is a great way to get them thinking about the plants and animals that they see around them. Buy them a nice notebook then tell them to go out and record what they see in the garden by writing and drawing. You can then help them to look up the things they’ve seen online or in a book. A great way of making sure your kids have plenty of things to record is by making your garden as sensual and wildlife-friendly as possible. Planting colourful and fragrant flowers, setting up a bird bath, and leaving areas of long grass to encourage insects are just some of the ways you can do this.
Another tried and tested garden activity for your kids is to show them how to press flowers and leaves. This is a very easy activity that involves collecting a few specimens from the garden, sandwiching them between absorbent paper, then pressing them between the pages of a heavy book to flatten them — Proflowers have a great guide that will help you choose and prepare your flowers and leaves in the right way. They can then be used to decorate pictures, cards, or even added to the pages of a garden diary. It’s a good idea to go outside with your kids and get them to point out which flowers and leaves they want to press. This will allow you to safely remove the heads without destroying the plant, as well as helping you to monitor the number of flowers being used — you don’t want to lose all the colour in your garden after all.
If you’re a keen gardener who grows their own produce, then getting your kids to make a scarecrow to frighten the birds away from your vegetables is a great project that brings together arts and crafts with the chance to introduce children to the joys of the vegetable patch. All you need to get started is a couple of bamboo poles, some old clothes, and some stuffing like straw or leaves. It’s also a nice activity if you’re looking to entertain both young and slightly older kids: the youngsters can get cracking on making the scarecrow, while the wiser heads can get stuck into their own vegetable growing project.
With these great gardening projects to look forward to, your children will be able to enjoy a happy and healthy summer playing outdoors and learning about nature. Just pray for the sun!