Getting your kids out into the garden is important. But it can sometimes be a challenge to wrench them away from those screens and get them to enjoy the great outdoors. So how do you get kids to spend more time in the garden? Here are some tips to help you turn your children into nature lovers who enjoy gardening as much as you do:
Set a Good Example
One key thing to remember when trying to get your kids to spend more time in the garden is that kids learn by watching you. If you don’t spend much time outdoors than the likelihood is that your kids won’t either. Teach by example and make sure that you make the most of your outside space. First things first, make sure you get out there and get growing.
Make sure that you create a productive garden, and spend time tending it. But make sure you also enjoy your garden and make time to relax and have fun outdoors at every opportunity. If your kids see you having fun in your garden, they are more likely to have positive associations with the activities you undertake.
Give Them Some Space To Grow in the Garden
Though you may love having your garden a certain way, it is important to be a little democratic. Remember that your garden is your kids’ garden too. Every member in your family should feel that they have some space to call their own. If you safeguard all your plants and garden elements too closely, kids may not feel as engaged. Give them some space to grow which is their own and they are far more likely to take a real interest.
It does not matter how large or small the area is. The idea is simply that they have some space that is just theirs, where you can direct their activities, but no one can really tell them what to do. Reserve judgement – let them make mistakes. And praise their successes. Let them use their imaginations. Your garden might not end up quite as you intended. But the results are bound to be interesting, and your kids can have fun and learn a lot in the process.
Let Kids Call the Shots (At Least Some of the Time)
When it comes to their own part of the garden, kids should be allowed (at least in moderation) to make their own decisions. Let them choose what they would like to grow, and try to help them to do so. Be around to facilitate, but not to dictate.
It is also important to let kids have some free time. Be wary of trying to schedule garden time with a very rigorous plan. It can be a lot of fun to do things together in the garden. But kids should also be given plenty of time to discover nature on their own. And they should sometimes be allowed to do so on their own terms. Let kids have free, unstructured time and they are far more likely to build a more meaningful connection with the garden, and want to spend more time there.
Give Them Some Space to Play in the Garden
Make sure that your garden is not too ‘adult’ a space. Kids need to have space to play. They need to have space to move around and be active, space for imaginative play, and space to make a mess and go a little wild now and then. Rewild your space and rewild your kids, not worrying too much about the odd trampled plant or muddy area. Let them get dirty. If you are too precious about your garden, your kids are far less likely to want to spend a lot of time there.
It is also very important to remember that space for play definitely does not have to be a neat grass lawn. Meadow planting schemes, woodlands etc can also be great places for kids to play.
Give Kids the Tools They Need
Kids who spend time in a garden will soon often develop the desire to make, build and grow in the vegetable garden, or in other parts of the space. As a parent or guardian, you can help them on their journey to self-sufficiency and resilience by giving them the tools they need and teaching them how to use them safely.
Know when to step in, and when to step back a little and let them try things on their own. It is important to give kids the agency, and the understanding about how their actions can shape the world around them. Skill building is important, and taking on fun projects can be a great way to engage their interest.
Make Growing a Game
To make sowing and growing more enticing for kids, it can be helpful to make growing into a game. Learning new skills can be a lot of fun. If you build fun activities into the garden time them kids are far more likely to engage. Make sure that you think about your own child, and their personality and interests. And tailor your garden growing activities in a way that will be interesting to them.
Add Some Competition
Some kids will love a competition, with you or with their siblings. So see who can grow the tallest sunflowers, or who can grow the most delicious strawberries, for example. Perhaps there could be a prize for the winner – something they can look forward to and a reward for their hard work.
Go On Bug Hunts and Explore
A trip into the garden can be an adventure if you find fun activities to explore the area in new ways. Kids might not be aware of all the many creatures with which they share the space. Go on bug hunts, looking under leaves and rocks, and beneath the soil to discover all the amazing wildlife which can be found there. Make lists of creatures for your kids to find, then help them find them all on a sunny day. Or send them out on a scavenger hunt that makes them look at your garden in a new way.
Build Dens and Hideouts
Building dens and hideouts gives kids great spaces for imaginative play, and gives them spaces to relax on their own, or have fun with friends. Wigwams, forts, cabins, treehouses… there are lots of options to consider. Or simply grow plants which make natural dens or hidey holes for them to explore.
Get Kids Grazing
Finally, one other way to get kids to spend more time in the garden is to grow delicious food that they want to eat. Sweet peas straight from the pod, soft fruits and other edibles can become treats that kids can graze on as they enjoy time in the garden.
These are just a few of the ways you can encourage kids to love your garden and to spend more time there, both productively and in play and relaxation. What do your kids like to do in your garden? How have you made your garden more child-friendly? Do you have any more suggestions? Please share them in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.