It’s true that involving children in your garden or allotment is a fabulously rewarding experience for all taking part, but it can be a little daunting trying to make it fun. I know I’ve been guilty of encouraging the children to come outside with me, only to promptly become preachy and controlling when they try to get involved. And that’s no fun for anyone!
I am a bit of a control freak, which is why gardening is so good for me – I have to accept it’s never going to be “finished” or exactly how I want it. In fact it’s this very nature of gardening that also makes it a perfect fit for children – they’re much better at going with the flow than the grown-ups.
I’ve learned from experience that if you can keep a few simple things in mind when gardening with children, then not only will it keep things fun, it will actually work to your advantage in terms of getting more than one pair of hands on the job. Here are my top tips for getting it right.
Let them be part of the planning
Talk to children about what you want to achieve before you start, so they know what you’re trying to do. Ask them to draw up a design , plan or action list. If you let them tell you their ideas they will become excited and engaged.
Give them a series of little jobs
Keep kids busy, but don’t give them things to do that are overly repetitive or boring (even if you’d rather not do these jobs yourself!). It’s OK if they water the borders for a couple of minutes, then help you with some pruning, then go back to watering, then plant some seeds etc. It will all get done in the end.
Show them, then ask them to show you
This one works brilliantly with my 3 year old. I get to show her the right way to do it, then she gets to boss me around telling me what to do. Then she shows her big brother, her dad, next door’s cat……
Give them their own patch of land
It’s really worth sparing a patch of earth or a container that your child can call their own; they will become so much more involved in looking after it if they have a sense of responsibility. Encourage them to decorate their plot, choose their plants, write their own plant markers and teach them how to look after their plants. We gave each of our children their own little plot at our allotment and the pride they take in caring for those small pieces of earth is magical to see.
Let them get dirty!
Yes, there will be laundry consequences. But I can’t garden without getting grubby so I don’t expect my kids to either, and besides, it’s fun to dig in earth with your hands, water your wellies and generally forget yourself in real hands-on engagement with nature.
I don’t spend every minute in the garden or allotment being productive; for me a lot of the joy is in the ability to just “be” there. Kids are the same. I find that as long as I’m pottering about in the background they are often content to do the same and there’s no need to interfere. And when they do get a bit restless, remember that series of little jobs I mentioned earlier?
What are your tips for fun ways to involve children in the garden?