It won’t be news to you that today’s kids don’t spend enough time outdoors. Despite our frequent encouragement (or should we say please) the lure of phones, iPads and the TV, prove too strong a match for the prospect of fresh air and sunshine.
Throw in our own busy lifestyles and it’s a tough ask to meet the activity levels recommended for health and wellbeing. If you think you’ve used every trick in the book to get your kids off the couch, think again.
Gardening might just be your new best friend.
It turns out a bit of green thumb activity is the perfect fit for the creativity and boundless energy of children. If you don’t know the difference between a spade and a shovel (hint: they’re actually the same thing), these tips will come in handy when convincing your kids to get into the garden.
Motor skills and intellectual stimulation
Most children love being outdoors, creating things, digging in the soil, getting dirty and watching plants grow. By channelling that passion into gardening, your kids will learn new skills and develop self-confidence while they get to play and have fun. And there’s nothing more satisfying than tending to plants and growing food you then get to eat.
There’s no room for boredom
There are so many different skills needed in the garden, from weeding to pruning, planting seedlings to harvesting vegetables. That makes it perfect for restless, energetic little ones. Set up a circuit of different stations in your backyard so your whole army of budding gardeners remain engaged for hours at a time.
Muddy hands and face, oh yeah!
Do your kids love mess as much as you despise it? The garden is one place where it’s recommended to get your hands dirty, which your little ones are sure to love.
Gardening lets them get as filthy as they like, meaning they’ll get all that wild banshee energy out of their system – and at a safe distance from your beautiful linen sofa.
Keep it simple
As we all know, kids are inquisitive (read: easily distracted), so start them off with plants that are child-friendly: those that grow quickly, are hardy or have interesting textures or colours. Give your kids their own garden space and start small. Think a few pots, a large container or a 1 metre x 1 metre patch in the garden. Soon they’ll feel like this activity is really their own.
Use colours and shapes to stimulate them
Kids like large, brightly coloured flowers and vegetables. Sunflowers, corn, pumpkins, tomatoes and strawberries are all great choices for visually interesting plants.
Strawberries in particular are an easy (and rewarding) plant for your kids to grow, thanks to the added fun of picking and eating your very own berries.
Fruit trees are another great choice. Go for a lemon or orange tree – hello freshly squeezed OJ and lemonade – and make sure you buy an established tree, otherwise you (and your kids) will be waiting years for any fruit!
Stimulation overload – mission impossible in the garden
Create a sensory garden by adding some plants that reward touching, tasting and smelling, alongside those with bright colours and interesting textures. Find some varieties that make noise when the wind blows through them. By stimulating every one of their senses, the garden will quickly capture their attention.
Start a project
Make a mini greenhouse, set up a worm farm and plant flowers that attract butterflies, ladybirds and other interesting insects or birds. Show your kids where flowers, fruit and vegetables come from by planting seeds together. You can let them decide what they would like to grow, and they can see the growing process from start to finish. A great little experiment is to grow an avocado from seed. As well as enjoying a bounty of free avocados, you and your kids also get to see the huge seed turn into a plant. Another great way to bring the kids outside is by building a bean or vine teepee. By planting a vertical garden, this will create a fun hideout for the kids and you’ll be having to tell them to come inside for once.
This one is for the parents
Garden organically wherever possible and make sure you only give children garden tools that are safe and that they’re ready to handle. There are heaps of garden tools available now that are made just for kids.