Gardening with Children during National Children’s Gardening Week 25 May to 2 June 2019
Guest post by Lucy Fink
Having recently started sharing an allotment with a friend, and faced with a new house and garden myself, I find myself spending a lot time thinking about how best to make the most of the outdoor space we have for my family. With three daughters aged between 3 and 9 this is quite a challenge. We have debated climbing frames and trampolines for hours, only to find that on a recent visit to grandparents that all my youngest two daughters want from our garden is a pond with frogs in it and some stepping stones. They are so keen, I wonder if they might just get on and dig it themselves tomorrow after school!
I love to garden, but with three young children time for such pursuits is limited, unless of course, it can be done with the children. So, somewhat selfishly, I am very keen that they learn to love it as I do. Our allotment now has a picnic bench that was being given away by the children’s’ school, on which they can eat a picnic and play or draw. Each of our 5 children (I have three daughters aged 9,7 and 3 and my allotment partner has two boys aged 7 & 5) have their own tyre-garden to care for; a local garage gave us the tyres and the children spent an afternoon decorating, designing and planting them themselves. Along with a resident robin and baby toad, so far this has provided enough attraction for them to enjoy going to the allotment with us. Although our growing skills are just emerging, and we have spent the last few months focussing on clearing and digging, I am hoping that sometime soon the children will also have satisfaction of being able to harvest some fruit and vegetables. In the meantime, thankfully, they like a rhubarb crumble made from the perennial rhubarb planted by the allotments previous tenant.
At home we planted a new border in the autumn, after moving in in June, and it seems to be doing well. On suggestion from my our clever Granny, we planted the border in three identical sections, and let the children choose which section was theirs. We let them add a few bulbs in the gaps and drew signs with chalk on slate to identify their garden. Whilst I can’t say they have done much of the weeding so far, it is lovely when one of them wanders over to check how their garden is doing, or asks Granny for some gardening tips. A sense of ownership also seems to make them a bit more careful with their ball games, as a football goes hurtling towards their newly bloomed alliums.
We have a Wendy House at the bottom of the garden which we brought with us from our previous house, and whilst they will all squeeze in it, the elder two are beginning to outgrow it. They favour the bare patch of earth next to the Wendy house, that has nothing more than a few rocks, logs and plenty of insects. However it is hidden behind a rather overgrown border and feels secluded, and thus is now their ‘Den’. They like to take snacks, books and games down there and sit on an outdoor rug. Occasionally I pop down and find they have written cardboard signs, marked out paths with sticks, or made an extensive woodlouse collection. The girls have also built a bug hotel from a pile of logs and sticks they found lying around the garden, but it is due a refurb this summer. So thanks to the woodlice we may not have to invest in a trampoline after all. My recent visit to RHS Chelsea Flower Show reinforced this, displaying wonderful natural play spaces, secluded family gardens, and growing activities with children. Also the amazing new Children’s Garden at Kew Gardens has a much more natural feel than its previous playground. That said, if we visit friends who have already bought their trampoline, my daughters will be running towards it as quickly as you can say ‘thanks for inviting us’!
Its Children’s National Gardening Week next week, and you can find a lot more ideas of how get your children gardening and enjoying being outdoors, and events being held at your local garden centres during the week at www.childrensgardeningweek.co.uk