You don't need a house with a garden to be a gardener. Many of us have balconies or sunny window ledges and with recent gardening technology, such as grow lights and aquaponics the options for introducing gardening to your children are even possible when we must all stay at home.
In the last few years I have discovered the wonders of gardening and whilst I am no expert, I find a huge satisfaction growing my own vegetables or fruit as well as the feeling of calm pottering outside brings. Gardening is something all kids should be involved in; it's educational and exciting. It gives a child the opportunity to be part of nature, rather than an observer of it, and helps them comprehend that we are only part of a much larger ecosystem that we have to nurture and protect. I had some really keen gardeners whilst teaching, but I hadn’t spent much time trying to get my own children (Toby is 9 and Darcey is 7) interested. So here are a few ideas and tips to get you started.
Find a space in your home and dedicate this as your child's garden.
Create a sign together to identify the space as theirs; 'Darcey's Garden' for example.
Forage around your home for things you can use as planting pots. This warrants its own 'Nature At Home' blog but check out inspiration here on Pinterest. Children are strong advocates for protecting our planet and recycling encourages this interest.
What to Plant
Decide what you are going to experiment with first then source some soil and seeds. Plenty of businesses are delivering these items to our homes.
Or how about planting supermarket-bought vegetables? In our bid to be planet protectors, we have experimented with re-growing vegetables like pineapple, carrots, onions, cabbage, lettuce, celery, and fennel - just ask Google or check out this great blog, head to the supermarket and try and select organic options if available.
You can also extract the seeds from tropical fruits and veggies. You'll need to dry them out then 'pop them to bed' (put them in and cover up with soil). We have found pumpkin, watermelon, ochre, chili pepper, and papaya really good and they grow quite quickly - which is always a bonus when sparking interest for the first time. My daughter has even been rather industrious and made some seed packets to sell.
However, if you are constrained by space, consider purchasing seeds for small salad items like chye sim, kang kong, and Chinese kale.
Time to Plant
Set up your planting space so that you are happy to let your children make a mess. You could put down a big plastic sheet or even do your potting in the bath! It is important that you let them get mucky and freely enjoy the activity, nothing spoils fun like being told to keep clean.
Let your child personalize their creation or garden, perhaps they want to add figurines or teddies?
If you're replanting vegetables bought in the supermarket, set them in water and wait for them to begin to grow before planting.
Maintain Your Garden
Keep it visible. Take pride in it. Model behavior. If you show interest, in all likelihood your children will too.
Check often and record the results - put up photos or use a measuring stick so you can all see your progress.
Change what isn't working, this is all part of the experiment.
Don't over-water. As a general rule, underwatering is less harmful. Always check the soil first or purchase a soil moisture monitor like this one.
A child-sized watering can or a water spray can be fun for children. If you have a window garden, keep it on trays to prevent spills and it can be moved into a bathroom for watering. No watering can right now? Make holes on the top and side of a water bottle.
Rotate plants to change their positions to benefit from different amounts of sunlight or shade.
Have fun and be creative with your children's gardens! Please send us photographs to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a go at this activity so that we can share inspiration with our community.
Caroline joined Wildlings from Tanglin Trust School where she has worked for the last 3 years as a Teaching and Learning Assistant in Early Years. She holds a Diploma in Early Years Education and is currently in the process of completing the Forest School Leader program. Aside from this Caroline is a mum of two children and a keen runner.