Gardening is a great way to get children out into the fresh air and learning to enjoy and appreciate nature. With the arrival of spring, there is plenty for children to do and see, but if you're not sure where to start, here are a few ideas on how to get the little ones involved in the garden.
Seeing something that they have planted with their own little hands is a wondrous thing for most kids, and the trick is to plant something that will pop up reasonably quickly and grow successfully. Sweet pea, nasturtium, marigolds and pansies are all easy to grow and will make a bright and colourful addition to beds or pots.
If you have plenty of space for a vegetable patch, growing plants that will later make it to the dinner table is another great way to get the children excited. Radishes are a great place to start, lettuce can be grown all year round, and runner beans and courgettes will be fun for them to pick. You never know - it might even encourage your little ones to eat their greens!
Once they've been bitten by the gardening bug, you could even try planting a tree. Collecting conkers, acorns or sycamore seeds in the autumn and planting them in pots is a good way to start. Though there will be a long wait until spring, once the seeds begin to sprout, you can encourage your child to take good care of their long-term project, repotting as it grows.
The little bugs and beasties that live in every garden might also prove a source of fascination, so take advantage of this and encourage the kids to explore life in the undergrowth. Collecting and drawing garden critters is a great way to keep them interested even on a rainy day. Simply add some damp soil or compost to the bottom of a clear jar or plastic box, and help the children to find some interesting insects. Then ask them to pay close attention to their subjects, how many legs they have, the patterns on their bodies, and their colours, and let their artistic side take over. Just remember to release the insects when they're done!
Another fun game to play is 'track the snails'. No doubt your garden is home to a few, so ask your kids to help you find them, then dab a little nail varnish on the top of any shells. Over the next few days, they can search the garden to see how far their snails have travelled. You could even remove the marked snails from your own garden and see whether they make it back home!
And for a really fun and fascinating project, why not build a wormery? All you need is a large clear jar, some sand and some soil, as well as a few wrigglies. Add a 1cm layer of sand to the bottom of the jar (the kids can help with this), then a thick layer of soil, one more layer of sand, and then another of soil, leaving 5cm of space the top of the jar. Send the children out to find some worms, then allow them to gently place them in the jar. Add some old leaves and kitchen leftovers such as vegetable peelings, poke holes in the lid of the jar and cover it with black paper before placing in a cool, dark cupboard.
After a couple of weeks, they'll be amazed to find the vegetable peelings have turned into compost and the worms have created patterns in the earth. It's great way to introduce kids to these welcome garden guests.
The garden is a wonderful world of life, whether plant, insect or other. All it takes to get young ones interested is a glimpse of just how amazing it really is, so get creative and get them involved. You may even be inspiring the next generation of gardeners or wildlife experts.
Do your kids enjoy gardening? How did you get them interested, and what do you find they enjoy most? Leave your comments below...