WITH children on holidays from school, the best place to keep small fingers occupied is in the garden.
Whether you have a small backyard, an allotment, a balcony or a big estate, there are easy, enjoyable projects that family members of all ages and ability can enjoy.
Playing with sand and water absorbs children. They are satisfying a primal need. Swap the sand with soil and, hey presto, you have the components of a garden project.
Trust me, the results are more fun and fruitful than the image conjures up.
Plant-adoring adults and exuberant children can successfully co-exist in the one place, with a little planning and patience.
Gardening, and especially of vegetables, awakens all of the senses and is recreation, adventure and education for children, three essential ingredients for personal development.
Not only does gardening tear children away from TV and phone screens, but it also enables them to exercise, to absorb essential Vitamin D via the sun, and to breathe fresh air into their lungs. In working side-by-side with their parents or grandparents, children inherit lifelong skills and cultivate a taste, and appreciation, for healthy, home-grown food. Most children who grow vegetables actually like eating them as well.
Gardening is multi-sensory and there is no disputing that observation of the ever-changing seasons, and of a plant’s development from seed to harvest, can teach children lots about science and nature, not to mention instilling in them the virtue of patience. Children love to help with sowing, transplanting, weeding and harvesting (most notably when it is sweet, such as a strawberry that can be popped straight into the mouth).
Children especially connect with watering, as it involves a bit of muck and messing. The trick is to keep the jobs varied and, if you have the space, it’s well-advised to give them their own little plot for sowing seeds and for transplanting. Invest in some child-sized tools, such as a hand fork, trowel and watering can, and get out there and watch your budding gardeners blossom and bloom.
A Child-friendly Garden Project
Sowing mixed ‘cut ’n’ come again’ salad leaves is a great growing project for children, and could be just the remedy for reluctant little salad lovers. Seeds are fast to germinate and can be sown right through the summer, and the leaves respond well to continual grazing, as they will come back in a couple of weeks and allow the children to nibble them all again and again.
1. Select a small piece of ground, a grow bag or large container (buy it or recycle it and be creative, and, remember, the brighter the container the better for children). Buy a packet of mixed ‘cut and come again’ summer salad leaves.
2. Fill a container with soil or compost, and water well before sowing seeds. Shop-bought compost is sterile, so will ensure no unwanted weeds appear.
3. Once the water has drained, let the little fingers sprinkle the seeds thinly, and shallowly, over the soil’s surface and then cover them with a fine layer of compost. Leave the pot in a warm, sunny spot that is not exposed to harsh prevailing winds.
4. Once the salad container is adequately watered and kept in a well-lit spot, seeds should soon germinate. Within a few weeks, a harvestable crop of salad leaves is ready. It’s great to encourage children to nibble straight from the pot, and prompt them to include freshly picked leaves in a sandwich, or to sprinkle rocket over a pizza or other meals.
If a few seeds are sown every two weeks, a continual supply of nutritious salads, and happy children, should be guaranteed for the rest of the summer.
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