Get your Kids Gardening
The festive season is ahead, and it happens to coincide with our gardens growing fast and furious, which means we will want to and need to spend time in them. But we also need to entertain our kids and lure them away from screens this holiday. Here are some ideas to get your children enthusiastic about spending time outside in the garden.
Buy them tools
New gear always me excited about an activity, be it running, fishing or gardening. Kids are often the same, so think about buying them their own set of gardening tools. There is a second benefit to this too: they won’t ruin your own precious tools! A new pair of gumboots, a trowel and fork set, and a diminutive watering can are all you need to get the excitement levels up, and all your child needs to get things done in the garden.
Build a mud kitchen
A ‘mud kitchen’ is a broad term for a space outside where kids can be kids – make a mess with water and mud, with perhaps some sand and gravel thrown in. Most of them are set up as a kitchen counter or table, but they don’t have to be. Whatever the space, set it out nicely, give them some old containers or pots and pans, dress the children in old clothes and let them have good, old-fashioned fun cooking mud pies!
Make buggy noughts and crosses
Noughts and crosses or tic-tac-toe is a fun and easy game that even little kids can understand and play by themselves. Make it even more fun by making a set with them. Use a paver or a piece of wood as the ‘board’ and make the pieces out of stones or pinecones, or anything else that’s handy. Decorate the pieces with paint to make them more unique. There are other games for outdoors that you can make – check out the DIY in the Let’s Braai magazine for another great idea. Or visit our YouTube channel, GardenTube, for more fun kids’ activities.
Give them a patch of their own
Children love to have some control in their lives, to be their own bosses and do their own thing. If you have the space, hand over a patch of the garden to your children and encourage them to do what they want to it. Ideally, they will grow orderly lines of verdant vegetables, but there’s an equal chance that it will end up as a road network for toy cars, a battlefield for plastic soldiers or the scene for mud castles and dams.
Grow crunchy munchies
When you’re planning your own vegetable garden, make sure you grow at least a few things that are easy to eat then and there in the garden: carrots, sweet peppers (my kids love them!), strawberries, berry bushes, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, beans, peas, loose-leaf lettuce, peanuts… It is much more fun to stand in a garden munching on delicious food than it is sitting at the supper table and eating it off a plate!
Go big and small
Children tend to love anything with a novelty factor, and that includes food: they will love tiny or huge tomatoes, round or purple carrots, immense pumpkins, tiny ‘watermelons’ (actually cucamelons), lemon-flavoured cucumbers, purple beans… Choose varieties with this in mind and your garden will always be popular.
Simple science experiments
The hackneyed bean sprouting in cotton wool might be boring to you, but it’s quite exciting if you’ve never seen it before. Do some gardening experiments like this that your child can follow and see happen. Avocado pips are another idea, as are growing microgreens or edible sprouts.
Help them plan on paper
When you’re planning your veggie garden, get the kids to help. Ask for input as to what they think should be grown and get them to draw in what goes where. If they can’t write yet, you can write in the names of the plants and get them to colour in with appropriate colours, like red for tomatoes, orange for carrots and so on. Anything that develops ownership of a project will increase excitement levels.
Get the friends involved!
If you want your kids to really enjoy time in the garden, let them run wild(ish) with their friends. Set them tasks that they would enjoy or encourage them to play in the mud, or have water fights, or build in the mud.
Welcome the critters
Teach children about the value of pollinators and other beneficial insects, and then help the kids to make a suitable habitat for them. A simple bee hotel for solitary bees is a great stocking filler, or you can make a bigger bug hotel in the garden using just about anything have a look on Pinterest and on our website for ideas. Also sow seeds of plants that produce colourful flowers and are a good nectar source, as well as grass for seed-eating birds to enjoy.
Eat the results
Make eating fruit and veg fun too. Picnics in the shade of a tree are always enjoyable, and you can set out snack platters of things that you and the kids have grown in the garden.