To get your child out into the garden and working alongside you might feel like an impossible dream. With the games console and social media, the pull of the indoors seems to eclipse any love you might pass on for working in the garden. While there is a lot to gain in getting your kids out and about and amongst nature, it is easier said than done. You may know it is good for their physical and mental wellbeing and a great way to instil a love and need to protect the environment; your children might see it as what “old people do.”
While the best way is to grab the child’s attention really young, there are lots of ways to help encourage a love and appreciation of working in the garden.
Remember when you were little, and you grew cress in a little tub. You had your bag of seeds, and you dropped them in soil, watered them a little every day, and the seeds sprouted leaves and grew. When you are tiny, growing a plant from a seed seemed like a miracle and gave you a clear idea of where food came from. There was also something extraordinary about pushing little fingers into the soil to create the home for the seed.
Therefore, when you are beginning to inspire a love of gardening – start small and work indoors, to begin with. Making it the responsibility of the young child, as it is best to start when they are still small too, to water the seeds is a great way to develop a sense of ownership over the task.
You eat food too!
The most fantastic thing about the cress was when it was snipped off with scissors and used in your egg sandwiches. Food feels like it is mysteriously made out of fresh air and sunlight. You can build on this connection by starting a veg patch with your kids. It is a great idea to start with easy to grow things, such as salad leaves and peas. Peas are great because you can pick them from the bush and eat them while standing in the garden. Alternatively, if you want to grow something impressive, courgettes grow in abundance and look they the stuff you buy in the supermarket. If veg feels a little ambitious, then you could start with edible flowers and a fruit bush or two.
The great news is that by growing the food they eat; kids are more likely to eat the veg when it is served for their dinner.
Being the role model
Often, kids want to be just like mum and dad, especially at a young age. When dad is out watering the plants, the little person likes to be alongside doing the same thing. Therefore, by buying a child-size watering can or making one together by piercing holes in a jar lid, you can encourage them to love it because you do. You can even do this by digging in the mud. If mum is out turning over the mud in the flower beds, the youngster will likely want to do the same in the mud kitchen you create for them.
Family memories and a sense of nostalgia created by these moments will encourage children to garden long into adulthood. You are planting the seed of this love in your child that will flourish in later life.
Gifts and sales
While we want our kids out in the garden for the love of it, there is something to be said for incentivising the work done. For instance, you could show the kids how to dry the herbs you grow in the garden and make them into scented bags. There is nothing like a suitable stall for selling your wares to neighbours. You could also let plants go to seed and package these seeds and sell them too.
Alternatively, you can put a price on the jobs in the garden, which is more effective for older children. Linking chores such as watering or mowing the lawn to a set amount from their allowance is a great way to get these young people out into the garden.
Keep it basic
While there are dens and water features and climbing frames and fairy gardens, making the garden a remarkable space – getting children to love gardening needs to play to more basic instincts. Getting outside with your children and gardening as a family activity that you enjoy together is the best way to link happy moments to this fantastic hobby.