Photo by Georgia Maciel from Pexels

We at Little Active People are all about getting children active; both mentally and physically by reducing screentime. Gardening is a perfect activity that promotes both physical and mental health in our children. Neither Jemma or I are particularly green fingered but we have so many happy memories of being in the garden as children. Our parents are keen gardeners and the children get really involved with the planting and vegetable growing with them. Jemma and I still love to do the nature activities with the children so whatever your level of interest in the garden, there are lots of opportunities to get the children involved!

What is National Children’s Gardening Week?

National Children’s Gardening Week (25th May – 2nd June 2019) celebrates the fun that gardens hold for kids. Getting children to explore the great outdoors and inspiring them to enjoy plants and gardening can give them a lifelong healthy hobby and teach them the values of growing your own food. National Children’s Gardening Week takes place annually in the ‘warm’ half term at the end of May and aims to capture children’s enthusiasm at a time of year when growing results can be seen more quickly.

What are the benefits?

  1. Gardening helps encourage taking responsibility. Children learn that the plants depend on them to help them grow…. ours quickly learnt that without watering, the plants died! Seeing the plants blooms and the vegetables grow gives them a great sense of achievement after all their care. Growing up, we helped look after the gardening tools – nowadays, there are some great mini versions which they can take responsibility for.
  2. Gardening encourages health eating habits. As children we had a vegetable patch and could learn what food looked like before it reached our plate and what exactly went into growing, picking, storing, preparing to eat, and even composting the waste back into the garden.
  3. Gardening improves physical health. Children who are exposed to microorganisms in soil have a stronger immune system. Northern Illinois University states “It’s no surprise that many children that are raised on, or around, a farm are generally healthier than those that aren’t. This is because on a regular basis these children are exposed to dirt, animals, pests, bacteria and everything else that send modern-day parents running. While we like to think that dirt, animals, pests and bacteria do more harm than good it’s actually the opposite. When your children come into contact with these things in a natural way (outside) and on a regular basis, they are less likely to develop autoimmune disorders and allergies.” Not to forget the physical activity while working and playing in the garden means the children are getting their necessary exercise and their exposure to Vitamin D!
  4. Gardening promotes mental health. Gardening is definitely a form of exercise! When we exercise, our brains release endorphins, which lift our mood and make us feel more productive. Sunshine can trigger the release of the hormone serotonin, which acts as a mood stabiliser and helps us to feel more positive and productive.  Exposure to natural daylight can also stimulate production of the sleep hormone melatonin which, coupled with the fresh air, may aid a better night’s sleep – and we all feel better for that! Growing their own plants and vegetables can also be very satisfying for children – giving them a positive boost to their self-esteem. And whilst the garden can often be a place for fun, it can also provide a place for the children to have some calm and peaceful time, whilst they dig or create their own little fairy house.
  5. Gardening makes learning fun. Without realising it, children are learning.  Use some maths to figure out how many seeds are needed and how far apart to plant them. How many scoops of bird seed to put in the feeder? Experimenting with science to understand what different plants need to grow.
  6. Gardening is a great way to have fun. Gardening can be lots of fun! The shrieks from our children as we water them whilst watering the plants. I remember competing with my sister as to who could get the biggest pile of weeds in the compost area and seeing who could find the scariest bug in the soil as we were digging. Or how about trying to build a fairy or bug hotel?!
  7. Gardening fosters family bonds and creates memories. Whether you’re teaching them how to look after a garden, exploring a new garden or having fun outside…spending time together is precious. I have so many memories spent helping our parents in the garden – from the excitement of helping daddy mow the lawn to the annual financial reward of sweeping leaves from the Grandparent’s long drive for a day. And how many of you have the photo of child stood next to the sunflower?! 
  8. Gardening engages the senses. They may not be very helpful at a young age but it’s a great place to explore their senses! How does the soil feel? What do the flowers smell like? What can you see on the bird feeder? What can you hear by those flowers? What does that fruit taste like?
  9. Gardening encourages fine motor development. As they get a little older, helping in the garden by picking up tiny seeds to plant and pulling out weeds can help their fine motor development.
  10. Gardening teaches patience. Children are not known for their patience! Seeds takes weeks to grow into plants or vegetables but the wait is always worth it.

How can you encourage gardening at home?

Gardening doesn’t have to be expensive and can provide many enjoyable hours of activity for all the family! You don’t need to have a big garden space at home to encourage their gardening skills. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Fun activity box. Our gardening activity box contains fun learning and outdoor experiences from growing vegetables to investigating chromatography. Everything provided so you can just spend the time having fun learning with your child!
  2. Get an allotment. Perfect for those with little or no outside space – head down together as a family or use it for some quiet ‘me’ time.
  3. Create a mud kitchen. Encourages the children to be out in the garden. For those that love role play, like our youngest, it’s a perfect way to explore the garden in a different way.
  4. Create a recycled garden. Perfect for small gardens, saving money on expensive pots and being eco-friendly. Use old furniture such as a chest of drawers or those old welly boots which are too small or leak! Pop in some compost and plant up. Get the children involved as to what they want to plant in there or give them their own drawer/welly to look after!
  5. Cascading strawberries. Great idea for those that don’t have much space. Make some holes 3-4cm in an old drain pipe or tube. Fill with compost and pop in your strawberry plants. Use liquid plant food every few 6 weeks in the summer and make sure they are watered.
  6. Make their own bug hotel. Use old items such as wooden pallets, bamboo canes, house bricks, broken unplastic plant pots, sticks, stones, fir cones and let your children create their own bug hotel! Top it off with any turf or moss to give it it’s 5- star status!
  7. Create a fairy garden. If you haven’t got a large garden, head to a local park or woods. Send the children off with some bags to collect all sorts of natural ‘treasures’ such as little stones, twigs, moss, colourful flowers/petals, leaves and pine cones. Use a container (Tupperware tub, shallow cake tin, big glass bowl) and get them to create their own little garden. Add in a upturned jar lid for a water feature. Perfect combination of physical activity and then some quiet, creative time!
  8. Make lavender bags. Using a CD, draw a circle onto come thin material and cut out. Cut about 15cm of ribbon.  Place the dried lavender in the centre of the fabric and then bring the edges together to form a pouch. Tie the ribbon around the top. These can be given as gifts from the children or put in their drawers to keep them smelling fresh!
  9. Make a bird feeder. The children can make their own bird feeders using recycled materials. Try taking a plastic bottle, and make two holes, opposite each other. Put through a pencil at a 90-degree angle, leaving one end just poking through the hole. Add more pencils in different directions as you wish, for the birds to stand on. Pierce some holes further up, which should be slightly larger than the seeds, for the birds to feed from. Pierce two holes near the top of the bottle for the string or wire to go through in order to hang on a tree/washing line. Fill the bird feeder with seeds and then hang as high as possible so the birds can feed safely.

Gardening gear for children:

Gardening is not just a summer activity! Make sure they keep dry with our waterproof coats and all in one suits: perfect for those spring/summer showers! Pop on some wellies so that they stomp about in the mud and leaves to their heart’s content.

And when it’s warm, and you’ve got the hose out…. try our range of hooded bath towels, perfect for getting them dry again! To keep the sun off, look at our range of hats that they can make their own and colour in!

Our gardening activity box contains fun learning and outdoor experiences from growing vegetables to investigating chromatography. Everything provided so you can just spend the time having fun learning with your child!

Thank you for reading and happy gardening! Let us know your favourite gardening memory or your children’s favourite gardening activity.

Jemma & Gill xxx

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