Finding Roots

Exploring Plants and Gardening with Children

Written by Isobel Watts | Tuesday 1st June 2021 | Reading Time: 3 Minutes

So, the summer weather has finally arrived! And its timing is absolutely perfect, as this week is National Children’s Gardening Week and the perfect time to explore and enjoy the outdoors with our families.

National Children’s Gardening Week occurs in the UK every year around the half-term week in May/ June. It was created to celebrate the joy that gardens bring to children and to provide activities and resources for kids to do with their families and schools.

For us, it’s a week to get outside and appreciate the natural world, regardless of where we live. In London, we’re lucky to have so many beautiful green spaces to enjoy, from parks and allotments to formal gardens and nature reserves. Now is a great opportunity for us and our families to stop and think about the world around us and enjoy what it has to offer. It’s also the perfect time to encourage kids to get comfortable among nature, learn about their environment, and even get involved in some gardening activities.

Why is Gardening and Nature Good for Kids?

We all know that there’s a strong connection between being outside and feeling good. That feeling of being in nature and feeling the fresh air is a universal mood booster. For kids, being immersed in the natural world and getting interested in gardening can provide amazing benefits for physical and mental health, as well as learning new skills and taking responsibility for their own projects.

Research shows that children who have access to good green spaces are 24% more likely to be physically active, and the act of gardening itself keeps them active in varied ways without feeling like exercise. Learning to handle plants delicately can also develop fine motor skills in young children.

Spending time outside gives children a space where they can feel peaceful and forget any stress they may have, just like adults. Engaging in gardening can also help to boost their self-esteem by giving them challenges and problems which they can feel proud of when they overcome them. Feeling less stressed, having more confidence, and feeling more connected with nature helps to boost children’s overall mental health and happiness.

The skills that children learn when gardening can include problem solving, patience, resilience, and responsibility. They can also learn new words and improve their knowledge about gardens, plants, and nature. Being outside offers a more varied and active approach to learning, which can help concentration and, of course, help them to enjoy themselves.

Gardening and being outside also provide a great opportunity for families to spend quality time together, doing a joint activity that everyone can enjoy and be involved in. This can improve family relationships and give children a fun family activity to look forward to.

So, kids benefit a lot from being outside and gardening, but research shows that children are spending less time playing outside in favour of watching TV and going online. If allowed to continue, this trend will further increase the disconnect that many children have from nature.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways that we can encourage children to become comfortable in natural surroundings and feel at home outside, all whilst celebrating National Children’s Gardening Week.

Use Your Local Parks and Green Spaces

Public green spaces are an amazing way of getting your little ones out and about, surrounding themselves with the natural world and growing comfortable in it. Some great activities to get them engaging with the plants, flowers, and local wildlife could be:

  •       Taking a nature walk. Allow them to appreciate the plants around them by talking about them and involving their senses. Ask your child what they can smell, how the leaves and petals feel in their hands. Can they hear any leaves crunching or birds tweeting? What colours can they see, and what are their favourite plants to look at?
  •       Go on a plant hunt or do a creature count. Using pictures and descriptions of plants, flowers, animals, and insects, see how many of each thing you can find. You could turn it into a competition or make it into a game of Nature Bingo!
  •       Taking photos. Older children may enjoy photographing the plants and flowers they see. They can appreciate the plants from close up and try to show them at different stages of growth. They could even use them to make a scrapbook or journal.
  •       Spending time relaxing together. Making kids feel comfortable in natural environments can be as simple doing a group activity in the park. These could include picnics, playing games such as frisbee or catch, or going for bike rides.

Do Gardening Activities Together in Your Outdoor Space

Working on your MicroGarden together is a great way of spending quality time with your child, as you share a goal and can learn new things together. Some ideas of how to involve your child in gardening activities could be:

  •       Make a photo journal. Document the changes that happen in your pot, showing the progression from buds to flowers, and the growth in the stems and leaves. This will give you something to look back on together and see how all of your hard work has made a difference.
  •       Fill the water reservoir. This is a really simple task that your child can take responsibility for, and will help them to feel fully involved in the gardening. Put them in charge of handling the watering can, filling up the reservoir, and checking on it regularly. The responsibility and patience that they will gain from this will help them to feel proud of themselves when the plants grow.
  •       Deadheading. Involving your child in this process can teach them about how the growing process works and how to keep your plants flowering for longer. Show them how to pinch out old flowers so that new ones will grow.
  •       Cook together using home grown herbs. Use the herbs from your edible MicroGarden to connect your gardening activities to the kitchen. Excite your child with idea of a pizza with your own herbs on, and give them something to look forward to as they watch them grow.

Make Garden-Themed Arts and Crafts

Whether your child is arty or not, there are lots of options for things to do and make that will get them thinking about plants and wildlife. Some ideas are:

  •       Art using natural items. Go scavenging in the park or around your local area to find items such as pebbles, twigs, pinecones, and leaves. You can paint the pebbles as little animals such as ladybirds or hedgehogs. The other materials can be used to make wild collages, a miniature garden set on a paper plate, or take a rubbing with crayons.
  •       Make plant markers. You could use more pebbles for this, wooden spoons, or pieces of card. Get your child thinking outside the box and make some fun labels to mark your plants.
  •       Make treats for the birds and bees. You could make up some bird feed using lard and seeds, which you can hang up as a tasty treat. You could also make a bee hotel that can hang on the wall and be used as a resting place for busy bees.
  •       Make a fairy house or garden. Your child can be really creative with this one. They could use old plant pots, logs, or anything else you can find, and embellish it with all things miniature – from doors, windows, chimneys, picket fences, deckchairs, bathtubs – you name it! These can look really sweet next to your MicroGarden too.
  •       Make a wind chime. Your child could use anything from old tins to sticks and stones to make a fun and relaxing accessory for your outdoor space.

Let’s go!

Whatever resources you have available, you can get involved with National Children’s Gardening Week. Getting your kids excited about gardening now could be the start of a fun and truly rewarding hobby for them, and is a great opportunity to spend time together enjoying nature. So, make the most of this week and have fun!