Gardening is a great bonding opportunity Image source: Shutterstock
What better way to get your kids excited and interested in the garden than inviting them to get their hands dirty? To help you pique their interest in all things green-fingered we’ve ploughed the internet for some great ideas to get your kids outdoors and digging.
The Outdoor Dad
Oli and Sonny don’t let cold weather stand in the way of their adventures Image source: The Outdoor Dad
Does your toddler love to copy your every move? Two-year-old Sonny has a great time helping his dad, Oli of The Outdoor Dad, brush leaves in the garden. Oli and Sonny also have an awesome time bug hunting, looking for birds’ nests and building dens.
An ambassador for getting muddy, first time dad Oli shares his passion for adventure in the garden and beyond. He says, ‘there’s so much to see in the big wide world that I want him to get started early.’ Check out his 101 outdoor activities for families, for ideas like building a compost heap or giving geocaching a try.
Little ones chomping at the bit to get into the garden will love Gardening with Willow, the Youtube gardening show with the world’s youngest presenter. When your kids watch Willow harvest runner beans and plant mushrooms they’re bound to want to have a go too.
A journey ‘towards a greener, cheaper lifestyle,’ The Newhouse Family Blog details the family’s quest to turn their garden into a sustainable paradise. Even if you only have a patio or balcony, you can still teach your kids eco-friendly gardening. Check out this family-friendly guide to organic growing to find out how.
Join Claire and her toddlers over on The Ladybird’s Adventures as they make bird feeders, butterfly biomes, and bug hotels in their back garden. Passionate about ‘learning through play and encouraging creativity,’ Claire also buys her kids their own mini tools, lets them choose their own seeds, and encourages them to keep a journal to track seedling growth.
Check out the rest of Claire’s tips and tricks for budding gardeners to encourage young children to engage with the garden. You’ll love the scavenger hunts she’s designed for you and your family to use.
Pairs of outgrown wellies kicking around the house? Get your kids growing boot-loads of herbs by turning them into planters. That’s just one of Lucy of Kids of the Wild’s creative outdoor gardening activities – she and her daughter Caroline also show you how to grow a willow den, dig a pond, and create wildlife havens.
A go-to resource for all things wild, Lucy’s passion for the outdoors helps spread the message that nature is transformative – a lesson she learned when Caroline was battling cancer. As she says, you and your family will benefit from getting outdoors, ‘even if you think you don’t have time.’
If you’re looking for a family project to get everyone outdoors, why not enlist the kids’ help to create a wildlife pond? Professional garden designer Rajul Shah shares step-by-step instructions over at her blog, The Small Gardener. Her top tip? Design a shallow, sloping ‘beach’ at the front so wildlife can enjoy a drink or bath without falling in.
Rajul’s own garden is a wildlife-friendly space. There are natural play areas where her children can hide, a fruit and vegetable patch, and a studio where she works. Kids will love her family-friendly projects like this hedgehog hotel too. Made using simple household objects, it’s a brilliant way to occupy a quiet afternoon.
Let your kids sow and grow their own plants from seed to harvest, says Lauren of Inspire Create Educate. That’s because there’s no better way of getting children to fall in love with gardening and the environment, than by putting them right at the heart of the growing cycle.
Green-living guru Lauren’s blog is a handbook for living sustainably with kids – and garden activities are key. Here you’ll find all you need to teach your little ones about ecosystems. Looking for something for impatient kids to do while they’re waiting for their seedlings to grow? Easy, Lauren says. Get them to dig a big muddy hole.
Even small hands can get to grips with garden tasks Image source: Mummy Matters
Teach your kids to grow plants even when there’s no outside space by using Sabina at Mummy Matters’ guide to growing indoors. She proves you can turn those little fingers green even if you can’t access a garden, with tips on what thrives in tight spaces, and even without sunlight.
Find out how to grow veg, herbs, and make personalised pots with your kids’ names on, and more. And when sometimes enthusiasm just isn’t enough to get the little ones excited about gardening, why not get your kids to plant seedlings? As Sabina says, “they’ll grow much faster and the reward will come much sooner”.
“Children make very natural gardeners in my experience,” says Catherine over at Growing Family. “They love hands-on activities, they’re curious about nature and the world around them, and they generally relish the opportunity to get grubby!”
You’ll never run out of ways to entice kids out into the fresh air once you’ve bookmarked Catherine’s Growing Family. With easy-to-grow veg, homemade bird feeders and loads more, there’s something for everyone. Fussy eater? Few children could resist tasting a vegetable that has their name on it! Here’s how to grow your name in a courgette this summer. For quick ideas that fit around busy family life, Growing Family is the place to be.
We’re sure you can’t wait to pull your wellies on and get your little ones’ hands dirty in the garden. Let us know what inspires you to move playtime outdoors by heading over to our Facebook page and dropping us a line.
Tomatoes are one of the easiest things to grow with children Image source: dogwooddays
Children love watching plants grow – from that miraculous moment when a tiny seed’s first leaves emerge from the ground – to enjoying the flowers and fruits that appear later in the season.
Professional garden designer Nic Wilson of dogwooddays thinks it’s a great idea to get kids involved with gardening at an early age. Here’s what she and her kids made of Thompson & Morgan’s Mr Men and Little Miss seeds when they tried them out at home.
Encouraging kids to sow and grow
The seeds Nic’s children decided to start with Image source: dogwooddays
Last year, Thompson & Morgan partnered with Mr Men and Little Miss to produce a selection of seeds and gardening products to encourage kids to grow their own. The range was launched in the fabulously colourful Mr Men themed garden at Hampton Court Flower Show – a hugely successful space loved by adults and kids alike.
Making markers for seed pots is part of the fun Image source: dogwooddays
My kids decided to start with Mr Happy’s Tomato ‘Sweet Apéritif’ – because tomatoes are one of our favourite summer snacks. We sowed the seeds in peat-free compost in newspaper pots that we’d made ourselves, and then popped them into the windowsill propagator.
Each day the kids checked the pots, and there was great excitement on the morning that the first leaves unfurled. Indoor germination makes it easy for children to get involved in watering the plants each day and watching the seedlings develop.
This week we’ll be pricking the seedlings out and the children will be growing them on in their bedrooms. We’re planning to plant them out after the first frosts and hoping for big bowlfuls of cherry tomatoes later in the summer! We’ve also sown Little Miss Giggles’ Cucumber ‘Diva’ which should give us plenty of small fruits for picnics and lunchboxes.
Best flower seeds for kids
Stunning cherry, rose, gold, orange, scarlet, tangerine and cream Nasturtium flowers Image source: Mr Small’s Nasturtium Whirlybird Mixed from T&M
For a shot of colour, we decided to sow Mr Small’s Nasturtium Whirlybird Mixed. Nasturtiums are one of the best flowers to grow with young children as they have such cheerful flowers. Kids love the fact that they have edible peppery leaves and they also enjoy harvesting the petals to add to pretty summer salads.
Another flower with brightly coloured, edible petals is Mr Clever’s Calendula ‘Fruit Twist’. Calendula readily self-seeds in the garden, so in subsequent years it’s fun to see what new colours emerge as the seedlings mature.
Gardening skills for life
There’s nothing quite like harvesting your own snacks as a child! Image source: dogwooddays
Growing these easy crops and flowers teaches children how to sow seeds, prick-out seedlings and look after plants once they’re outside in the garden or greenhouse. The sense of achievement when they pick their first tomato or create a posy with their own flowers is enormous.
Even better, it has encouraged my kids to enjoy fruit and vegetables that they would have otherwise refused to try. And with 25% of each packet sold going to the Children With Cancer UK charity, growing these seeds is sure to bring a smile to everyone’s faces – not just Mr Happy’s!
If you’ve been inspired to get your kids or grandkids out into the garden this year, the Mr Men and Little Miss seed range includes:
Discovering the wonder of nature is a lifelong journey. Image source: Oksana Kuzmina
My own childhood memories of high summer are filled with light, scent and taste: my dad’s mesembryanthemums with their candy-coloured faces following the sun, honeysuckle perfume saturating the evening air and summer raspberries still warm as I popped them in my mouth.
I was lucky enough to spend my childhood summers playing in a third-of-an-acre garden with apple trees, flower borders, a vegetable plot and a wild area where I was often to be found, at the top of the Scots pine, with an apple and a book.
Modern gardens are getting smaller, and more families are living in urban settings, often with only a balcony or window ledge for outside space. So how can we engage today’s youngsters with plants, nature and the outdoors, especially during the long summer holidays?
The Scots pine canopy of my childhood was a special private place – the kind of secret outdoor space that many children like to create around themselves. But there are no mature trees in our small garden, so I planted a willow den for my kids as a place where they could be alone with nature. Willow dens are created by using whips (young, thin willow rods) that will root when driven into the ground and kits can be purchased from specialist suppliers to train into wigwams, domes and tunnels. As they mature, the foliage cover develops and entirely screens the centre of the den from the outside.
My children loved their den. We have fond memories of eager faces appearing from the entrance playing ‘peepo’ and small hands thrust through the foliage to wave at us from within. Willow likes fairly damp ground and our den finally perished after six years as the soil is a little too dry, but in ideal conditions these dens will last for years.
How to sow the magic of seeds
Tomatoes you’ve grown yourself are the best tasting tomatoes in the world. Image source: Romrodphoto
There’s nothing like the magic of watching seeds germinate and develop bright blooms for flower pressing or tasty salad leaves. Getting kids involved in growing from seed can be the start of a lifetime’s fascination with gardening and it’s easy to grow plants like marigolds, lettuce leaves or tomatoes in a container or on a windowsill. If you haven’t sown seeds with the kids yet, it’s not too late. French beans, radishes and beetroot seeds can be sown as late as July, or alternatively you can buy tomato, courgette and pepper plants which will bear fruit throughout the summer.
This year we’ve been growing nasturtiums, calendula, cherry tomatoes and peas so the children can make simple salads garnished with edible petals. We also pickle the nasturtium pods as an alternative to capers – a peppery addition to pasta and pizza. As they eat their way through the vegetable bed, the kids are definitely developing more adventurous tastes and learning about where their food comes from.
How to get up close with wildlife
Nature is filled with beauty when you take time to observe. Image source: altanaka
There’s a whole world in even the tiniest patch of grass or flowerbed: spiders, woodlice, ants and hoverflies are all easy to spot when you stop and observe the garden close up. We’ve had tawny mining bees in our small lawn this summer, exciting visitors that we’ve been watching as a family and the kids have a magnifying pot so they can examine the patterns on a snail shell or the detail of a ladybird’s wing.
A container in a sunny spot filled with lavender, salvia, agastache, dwarf buddleja or herbs like oregano and thyme will encourage pollinators into the garden or onto a balcony. Putting food and water out for the birds adds another dimension to the garden, allowing kids to learn more about local wildlife.
One of my favourite garden moments was watching fledgling great tits emerge from the bird box by the shed with my five year old son. He’d watched the adults feeding their young for days and was fascinated by the way the fluffy fledglings kept poking their heads out of the hole before finally flying the nest. When the last great tit left the nesting box, to our amazement, it landed briefly on my shoulder and then headed off over the shed – this kind of experience is a fabulous way to ignite a child’s interest, creating the gardeners and naturalists of the future.
Disclaimer: The author and publisher take no responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Not everyone reacts positively to all edible plants or other plant uses. Seek advice from a professional before using a plant for culinary or medicinal uses.
About the author:
Nic Wilson is a writer, garden designer and Garden Media Guilds Awards nominee (Best Blog, 2017). She enjoys growing flowers and unusual fruit, vegetables and herbs, and loves to encourage nature into the garden. She also blogs at www.dogwooddays.net
Gardening is a useful and relaxing practice that most people enjoy doing. Not only is it fun and creative pastime activity, but it is also very educational for kids, so make sure you include your children and teach them about gardening as well. By joining you in nurturing and growing plants or simply enjoying the beautiful outdoors they are more connected to nature, happier and healthier. However, gardens are also places where kids can get injured. Still, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t let your kids experience the joy of spending time in a garden. Here are some precautionary measures you can take.
Examine the soil
The first thing you should do before you even consider having a garden is examine the soil, for the sake of your kids’ health and your own. For example, some soils were exposed to industrial contamination and they could contain harmful chemicals that can endanger your kids directly or through food.
Choose a safe water source
Irrigation is necessary for all gardens, regardless of the plants you plan to grow, but some water sources might be more dangerous than others. For example, wells need to be tested regularly for bacteria and other contaminants. They can also be risky for kids who love running around the garden, so you should make sure the well is always covered to prevent kids from falling inside. Running water provided by your municipality is usually safe, but you should also test it, just in case.
There are a few things you need to consider if you want to make your garden child-friendly:
Laying a turf: Regardless of the size and the purpose of your garden, you should have at least a small lawn for kids to play safely.
Choosing the plants: There are some gardening plants that are dangerous for kids. Avoid potentially poisonous plants, such as Oleander and Castor Bean. Roses with sharp and strong thorns are also not the safest choice.
Make the trees safe
Trees have always been kids’ favorite retreat and an endless source of fun activities outside in nature. Because kids will be kids, they will always want to climb the trees or insist on putting a swing on it. However, not all trees are good trees, and if you are dealing with white cedar tree (poisonous fruit) or a rotten tree with easily breakable branches, consider opting for tree removal services, and planting another, safer kind.
Store the tools
Power tools and other gardening tools present a major hazard for the kids. That’s why they need to be stored in the garage out of the reach of small kids or in a shed that can be locked. The access to electricity for power tools should also be child-proofed with outlet covers.
Be careful with chemicals
Like tools, chemicals you are using, such as insect and weed killers, should be stored somewhere where kids cannot reach them. Closed, locked shelves in your garage or a shed are good options. Of course, we suggest minimizing the use of chemicals and opting for more natural ways of maintaining your garden.
Finally, the best way to keep your kids safe in your garden is to be around them, so that they are always under adult supervision. This supervision doesn’t mean you should be passively observing your children in the garden, rather you should try to educate them about the appropriate behavior in the garden and slowly introduce them into the world of gardening by allowing them to help you.
So, whether you are starting your garden from scratch or just want to overhaul your old garden to make it kid-friendly, these tips should help you succeed in it.
When Nadine Pierce and her ‘partner in gardening grime’ Sandy moved to the edge of the Scottish Pentland Hills in 2013, neither had much gardening experience. But their ‘keen and willing, if slightly clueless’ approach totally paid off. Today, their garden – and their blog – is thriving.
But with abundance comes problems – namely, chickens that merrily demolish lovingly planted herbs. Sound familiar? Take Nadine and Sandy’s advice and stick bamboo around your herb bed so they can’t get in. Problem solved.
Joanna’s garden provides her with a constant supply of beautiful cut flowers. Image source: Edinburgh Garden Diary
‘Without a garden in London, I didn’t know what I was missing’, says blogger Joanna. When she moved to Edinburgh with her husband (‘The Brazilian’), she got her hands on her tenement building’s small, neglected patch.
Now a total gardening convert, Joanna says ‘caring for a few feet of your own soil can exalt your soul to the higher realms of serenity and satisfaction.’ Do check out her post about her visit to Newliston Estate – it’s so evocative you’ll feel like you’re there with her. Oh, and her photos are beautiful too.
Rosie Nixon’s gardening pictures and helpful tips will inspire and guide Image: Leavesnbloom
Wildlife gardener and photographer Rosie Nixon says ‘anything that buzzes, creeps, crawls or flutters,’ distracts her from her weeding. That’s great for us because it means more of her gorgeous photographs to coo over. See something you like? Just mosey on over to the fine art shop on her blog and pick up a few prints.
In the meantime, check out Rosie’s post on growing pulmonaria. Inspirational and educational in equal measure, she covers everything from how to say it (‘pul-mo-NAIR-ee-a’) to how to care for it. Needless to say, her pictures are a knockout.
Ardent bread baker and gardener, Mal knows how to turn a few simple ingredients into a showstopper. Whether he’s blogging about baking brioche hippopotami or sharing his excitement at cracking carrot cultivation, you can feel his passion in every post.
Herbs are one of Mal’s favourite things to grow and eat. But not coriander. ‘It’s the bane of my life,’ Mal says. ‘Every year I try to grow it for leaf and every year it bolts. Well this year… I’m going to beat it!’ Watch this space to see how he gets on.
When Rona Dodds first came across Monarda she was a student at National Trust for Scotland’s Threave School of Gardening. She says ‘Not only were they memorable for their colour but the lovely almost spicy scent of flowers and leaves.’ One look at her post about them is sure convince you to give them a try.
Back then, Rona guessed that the flowers in question were M. Cambridge Scarlet. Today, having been gardening privately and professionally for 30 years she knows exactly what she’s talking about. If you want tips from a woman who knows her way around a garden – Rona’s blog is the place to be.
Some of Square Sparrow’s autumnal harvest. Image source: Square Sparrow
Gardening and blogging from ‘deepest darkest Kinross-shire’, farmer’s daughter, Karen Elwis, aka the Square Sparrow, is no stranger to mucking in and getting stuff done in the great outdoors.
At home, she’s doing it with the help of HunterGatherer (aka her husband) and the company of a Highland pony, a fat cat, a flock of chocolate-coloured Shetland sheep, and occasionally, her three kids. It’s a full house, and the homestead gets even busier in the autumn when the polytunnel produces its veggies, Victoria the plum tree gives rich pickings, and Vinnie the vine creates ‘myriad bunches of tiny green grapes’. There’s much to love on Karen’s blog, not least the gorgeous pictures of her Scottish smallholding life.
Nicola has a deep and abiding love for herbaceous perennials. Image source: The Bonnie Gardener
Are you a fan of herbaceous perennials? Blogger Nicola is: ‘Watching herbaceous perennials develop in any garden is a thing of beauty and it brings me a huge amount of joy.’
That’s why she’s creating ‘a large, flowing herbaceous river right through the middle of the garden’ this year. Inspired to plant a few yourself? Nicola’s pick of the perennials will give you plenty of ideas. There’s plenty here to help you keep your garden looking its best.
Do you know of any other brilliant Scottish gardening bloggers? Let us know on our Facebook page!