Children’s gardening is perennially in the news.
How can we encourage the young to be interested in gardening? Should we even try?
I have a theory. If we go back to our hunter-gatherer ancestors, your teens and early twenties would have been prime hunting time. You’d be needed to get meat for the tribe.
When you got old (at around 25), you’d be less useful. But, by then, you’d have noticed the change of the seasons and how seeds grow. You’d probably also be minding children who were too young to go out on the hunt.
So the first farmers and gardeners could have been the community elders, making their contribution to sustaining their tribe, with the under-10s at their feet.
If my theory is right, the time to garden with children is when they’re young and still close to you. Let the teens get on with their hunting – they are going out into a huge, dangerous world to find what they need.
They’ll come back to gardening when they’re old. By which I mean aged 23, in a rented flat with a window box for growing herbs.
Make gardening fun for tinies
When we run the Faversham Open Gardens, we include a competition for small children so that parents can persuade them to enjoy garden visiting.
Garden owners hide a golden pebble. When the child finds it, they are given a ticket which they exchange for a prize on the Faversham Open Gardens market stall.
This year, prizes have been supplied by Johnsons Seeds, Thompson & Morgan Seeds, Kent & Stowe Kids Range Tools and African Kettles.
First-rate children’s tools
Toy tools are pretty pointless. Mini rakes with three prongs don’t achieve anything, which means the child doesn’t achieve anything. And that discourages the child.
So we were all delighted with Kent & Stowe’s new Kids Range. These tools are built to the same specification as adult tools, but they’re smaller and lighter.
As one petite elderly visitor to the stall said ‘Never mind the children, I need these!’ So they’d be worth considering for much older people too, if they’re finding normal tools hard to manage (although Kent & Stowe have a lighter Gardenlife range, which I’ve reviewed here.)
Seeds for children
A friend of mine was the deputy headmistress of a primary school for many years. I asked her about children and gardening.
‘Children are very impatient,’ she said. ‘They keep watering the seeds to make them grow, and usually wash them away. Or they dig them up again to see if they’re growing.’
So fast-growing is good. But you’ll have to decide between monitoring access to the seeds and letting children discover that digging seeds up means they never flower…
Johnson’s Seeds donated some wonderful children’s seed kits from their Little Gardeners range.
They include ‘Grow Your Own Pizza Topping’ and Shake & Sow Mixes that can be scattered (harder to dig up again!)
Thompson & Morgan also do fun ranges of seeds for children – they donated packets of easy to grow flowers and vegetables seeds with engaging packaging.
Get help with the watering….
Children love watering. All you need to do is direct them to the right places and stop them washing seeds away.
So smaller, lighter watering cans are good too. We were sent two African Kettles (only available from Amazon. Links to Amazon are associate links, which means I may get a small fee if you buy through them, but I’ll donate any African Kettle fees to the charity.)
The African Kettles are made in Senegal from recycled plastic. They’re constructed to make it safe and easy for children to carry water. Most adults who saw them wanted one, too.
Other easy, cheap ideas…
Garden and landscape consultant Matt Jackson wrote a post here on 14 child-friendly gardening ideas. It’s well worth checking out, especially the one about buying old pots and pans from charity shops and letting children play ‘mud kitchens.’
He makes the point that young children love doing things with adults. Spend time with them in the garden when they’re young, and they’re more likely to love gardens and gardening later on.
I suspect that not being too fussy about your borders might help, too. Mr Middlesize’s mother was always telling him to be careful of the flowers when he was playing in the garden. I blame her for his complete and utter lack of interest in gardens, as he seems to have the idea that plants are the enemy and must be kept under control. Although he is coming round to them, slowly.
With the summer holidays coming up, what are your best child gardening tips or products?
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from The Middle-Sized Garden http://www.themiddlesizedgarden.co.uk/childrens-gardening-some-really-good-and-fun-stuff/