Are your kids hanging around inside the house and spending far too much time staring at those screens? A polytunnel opens up a range of opportunities. Here are some polytunnel projects for kids to enjoy over the summer holidays. These ideas should help you to come up with a range of creative things for your kids to do, either on their own, or with you. No matter whether it rains or shines, a polytunnel can allow your kids to get closer to the natural world and develop a love of plants, wildlife, and good, honest dirt.
Polytunnel Projects for Imaginative Fun
Being creative and using the imagination is an important part of childhood – and in fact an important part of life in general. These first few ideas are all about giving creativity free reign and inspiring your children to create stories and re-imagine their world.
Making a Garden Den in a Polytunnel
Making a den in your polytunnel is one of the best ways to make sure that your children want to spend more time there. A den need not be huge, nor do you need to spend money to make one. Forget expensive Wendy houses or playrooms – a den can be made simply using whatever you have to hand – branches and leaves, reclaimed timber, an old tarp or excess piece of old fabric… inspire your kids by letting them lead the way and create the perfect den for themselves with the materials that you provide.
Making a Swing in a Polytunnel
Having a mature tree in your garden always offers a lot of opportunities for more physical fun – climbing, ropes and swings attached to a mature tree can provide hours of fun. But if you do not have a suitable tree (or are waiting for a newly planted tree to grow) then you might be able to consider affixing a swing to the crop bars or other roof structure in your polytunnel – if it is large enough. A benefit of hanging a hammock, swing seat or swing in your polytunnel is that you and your children can enjoy it whatever the weather.
Making Some Polytunnel Artworks
Another somewhat quieter and more peaceful option for imaginative fun in the polytunnel is to use the plants and animals around you to inspire some polytunnel artworks. Artworks could be created right there in your polytunnel, with just a few simple things. You could create some art with pressed flowers, with a potato stamp (or stamps made from other vegetables). You could try making some natural paints and pigments, or draw with charcoal, which you could even make yourself. You could craft stick and twig sculptures, make a nature mosaic, or even paint some seeds from polytunnel plants to make some hand-crafted jewellery. The ideas for artistic expression using the things you’ll find around you in your polytunnel and elsewhere in your garden are almost endless. So get out there, get creative, and see what you and your kids can create.
Making a Home & Garden for Visiting Fairies
Kids who love magic and mystery may love the idea that fairies visit your polytunnel. You can work on a polytunnel project this summer to entice these little beings to your space. Making a fairy house and a fairy garden are easy projects that even very young children can get involved with. First, you can begin by making a fairy house – fairies will love a house hand-crafted from bark, twigs and other natural things from the garden. But you could also consider using toilet roll tubes, scrap paper and other things from around your home that might otherwise be thrown away. You can then place your fairy house in the top of a container, or in a designated growing area, and plant around it, or sow seeds, so you and your kids can watch the fairy’s garden grow.
Marking Pumpkins For Halloween
A super easy polytunnel project that you could enjoy if you are already growing pumpkins or winter squash in your polytunnel is scratching designs into the flesh that will grow with the fruits to make a cool design for Halloween. Allowing kids to carefully scratch their name, or a face design into a pumpkin with a knife (closely supervised of course) could make them more invested in helping with and caring for the plants that you grow together as a family. Kids may compete to see if ‘their’ pumpkin grows biggest.
Polytunnel Projects To Help Them Learn as they Play
Polytunnel projects are not all about having fun and giving the imagination free reign. Some are largely about learning – though your kids may not realise that. They’ll just be having a lot of fun. Here are three cool learning activities that you could consider:
Sowing A Salad Face – Amusing Polytunnel Projects
Sowing seeds and watching them grow is one of best ways for kids to learn about where food comes from, and the life-cycles of plants. One polytunnel project that could help make seed sowing seem like much more fun is sowing seeds in such a way that they create a face (or another design). Sow quick growing cut-and-come again salad leaves, pea shoots and radishes in your polytunnel so you’ll be able to see some fairly quick results. Let each kid come up with their own design, then help them sow the different seeds to create the shapes or patterns that they want. As you harvest the seeds, you can further shape your design, cutting the ‘hair’ of your funny face, for example, or trimming a nose that has got too long!
Doing a Bioblitz or Some Other Citizen Science as a Polytunnel Project
Kids will also learn a huge amount simply by observing the world around them. Taking part in a garden survey, a bioblitz or some other citizen science polytunnel project could help your kids learn about the natural world, as well as giving them a fun activity. Counting the birds, watching wildlife in a pond, peeping at pests in the polytunnel, going on a bug hunt, counting the wriggling worms in the soil, or doing a wildlife ‘treasure hunt’ can all be fun ways to monitor local life and discover its secrets.
Making New Habitats or Houses for Garden Wildlife
You and your kids could also take on a polytunnel project related to creating new habitats or houses for the wildlife that you find on your garden explorations. You could, for example, make your own bird box, bat box, butterfly house or bee hotel. You could make a brush pile in a corner behind your polytunnel, for example, for visiting mammals and bugs or even dig a small pond in your polytunnel to attract more beneficial creatures.
Polytunnel Projects For Edible Treats
Summer also brings plenty of potential for polytunnel projects that involve turning the produce you grow into edible treats for the whole family, and friends. Below are three relatively simple cooking or preparation polytunnel projects that kids might really enjoy.
Making Fruit and Vegetable Ice Lollies
On a hot day, one of the easiest ways to make sweet but healthy treats is by simply blending and freezing some summer fruits (and even vegetables) to make some ice lollies – perhaps to enjoy in the polytunnel, as you chat or enjoy another of the projects on this list. How about using some stone fruits from your trees, some summer berries, or even blended carrots in your colourful and icy concoctions?
Creating Polytunnel Pizzas
For a healthier take on this junk food favourite, why not consider topping some pizza bases with some of the fruits and vegetables that you have grown. While you may wish to use some of your homegrown tomatoes for a classic pizza, you could also consider making a herby pesto, and branching out to try some other vegetables on your pizza bases.
Making Fruit Roll Ups
Finally, you could also consider making some fruit roll ups that kids can take out into the garden or polytunnel, or out on their adventures as a portable snack. Sugar free fruit roll ups or fruit leathers can be a healthy snack, and there are plenty of different recipes out there to choose from. On a rainy day, perhaps, get out there and harvest some fresh fruits, then head inside into your kitchen to cook up your roll ups as you enjoy, perhaps, some other creative activities while your fruit mix is drying in the oven.
There is no need to be stuck when it comes to activities to do with the kids this summer holiday. If you use your imagination – and your polytunnel – you will find that there are always plenty of potential polytunnel projects to choose from.
Do you have some inspired ideas for polytunnel projects to do with the kids this summer? Feel free to share your suggestions 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.