My brother Dale and I only started gardening four years ago but I wish we’d discovered it when we were younger. We were always outside as kids, inventing games, building dens and discovering nature, and gardening is just an extension of that really.
Now we’re on a bit of a mission to inject some fun and creativity into gardening and encourage kids to ‘have a go’. It doesn’t matter what they do or how they do it, it’s just about being outside with soil between their fingers, being creative, and having some fun.
Recently, we teamed up with Homebase to help launch their ‘Room to Grow’ campaign. It’s all about getting kids to turn off the TV, put down their iPads, get outside this summer and enjoy a bit of, what we call, ‘freestyle play’ – that’s making up your own games, getting messy and being inventive.
The campaign came off the back of a survey that showed that 51% of children will be spending most of their summer holidays watching TV and playing computer games and that screen-time far outweighed outdoor activities. That made us feel a bit sad. I’m a Dad myself (though my daughter is pre-school) and I know from talking to other parents what a challenge the long school holidays can be – juggling childcare and finding ways to entertain the kids – but often the simplest ideas can keep your kids entertained for hours and they can all be done right outside your back door. No matter what size your garden is.
So, here’s a few tips to get your kids outdoors over the summer holidays. Have a go and don’t be afraid to let them get mucky! And, if you’re looking for ideas, we’ve made four short videos of simple garden projects your kids can do this summer – everything from building a runner bean tepee to making a fruity bird feeder. Watch them here.
Happy summer holidays!
1.Make being outdoors part of their everyday lives
It’s easy for ‘going outdoors’ to become a planned activity, like football practice or music lessons. Make it a normal part of your kid’s day and let them out at every opportunity, rain or shine, even if it’s only for 10 minutes.
2. Build a den
Den’s are awesome and you don’t need loads of room or special materials to build them – use sticks, leaves, old broom handles, an old blanket, whatever you can find! They’re brilliant fun and building them will teach your kids cooperation, resourcefulness, problem-solving and let their imagination run wild.
3. Get them interested in gardening…
Kids love the touch and feel of nature and gardening is a great way to engage them with it. It doesn’t matter what they do – weeding, planting, watering or digging – it’s about being outside with soil between their fingers, being creative and having fun.
4.….but make it quick
We know kids aren’t great at waiting. To keep them interested in gardening grow vegetables that show signs of life quickly. Beetroot, potatoes and peas all get going very quickly and can be picked when they are still young so they don’t have to wait too long to eat them either!
5. Start small: turn your wellies into garden pots
Plants can be grown in any size container from an old watering can to a bath tub. You can even upcycle your old wellies into quirky garden pots: clean them with warm soapy water, ask an adult to carefully drill holes into the bottom, fill with compost, plant your seeds and wait for them to grow!
8. Create some wild art
Arts and crafts don’t have to be done indoors. Unleash their creativity in the garden by painting pots, making pictures with twigs, stones or leaves, or crafting a mud monster: make a face out of mud and decorate it with moss, bark, acorns, and anything else you can find.
7. Get tweeting
Birdwatching is such an easy way to enjoy nature. Anyone can do it, just about anywhere, which makes it a great thing to do with kids. Create a bird-friendly space by hanging bird feeders and planting bird-friendly plants. Patience is the key here. If you feed them they’ll come!
8. Give them room to grow
Once you’ve got them outside, don’t tell them what to do too much. Kids are much better than us at inventing exciting games. Give them their own space in the garden where they can muck about, get dirty, and create their own adventures.
Check out www.skinnyjeangardeners.com for more fun and information