There’s no doubt that gardening is a great family activity. As well as exercise, fresh air and fun there is the prospect of encouraging healthy eating by growing your own fresh produce. Whether it be lending a hand on the vegetable plot or helping grandparents with the digging there are plenty of opportunities for growing together. So I thought I would round up some of the best ideas I have come across recently for encouraging adults and children to garden together...
There are lots of children’s books about gardening but most seem to present it as a series of projects for the summer holidays if you get bored rather than a regular family activity. However, well worth a look is Gardening With Kids which includes 35 projects to do together and is particularly good for children under 10. Young Gardener takes a different approach with ideas organised by season. So you can turn to the summer pages and find information on the wildlife to watch out for, ideas for what to sow and projects such as taking cuttings and collecting seeds.
For my own children one of the best ways to encourage gardening has been to enjoy picking and eating the produce! Digging up and hunting for potatoes has been an annual favourite – natures own treasure hunt. Peas almost never make it to the pot in our house as they are so sweet when picked and eaten from the pod. Then there are tomatoes which are wonderfully easy for children to gather as it is easy to tell by the colour when they are ripe. As they grow older there are many opportunities in the kitchen to turn the produce into delicious meals.
One book which captures this particularly well is Grow It, Eat It. Published by Dorling Kindersley, it is beautifully laid out with clear step by step photographs. Each vegetable gets a double page about how to grow it followed by a double page showing a great recipe to prepare. So beans are followed by beanstalk stir-fry, onions and leeks precede delicious soup and mint can be turned into Chocolate and mint mousse. The presentation is very appealing to children and there are some particularly nice touches such as baking sunflower bread in plant pots and creating layered blueberry cheesecake in glasses.
Available in the UK is the ‘Secret Seed Society’ who recently launched the first of their ‘adventure packs’. This will particularly appeal to 3 – 9 year olds who get a seed agent card, illustrated story book and packet of cress seeds, along with ideas for projects to do in the garden and kitchen. You can sign up to become a Seed Agent on their website and receive missions linked to the adventure packs with a competition for the best photograph sent in. I would recommend exploring the website with your child first as you will soon discover if this concept appeals to them.
For older children who like a more high-tech approach or are interested in science and technology, a product to watch out for is PlantCam. Due to launch this autumn in the U.S. with a cost of around $80 this is a simple to use time-lapse photography camera that can literally bring plant growth to life, as shown on this video. It is produced by the company who have developed the popular BirdCam for watching wildlife and it automatically creates the video from the photographs so that it can be viewed on any computer without needing special software.
There are plenty of old-fashioned ways to enjoy a garden together as well. Hunting for worms, making homes for wildlife and even just digging up dirt all have great appeal. One of my favourites is to prepare a special picnic and just eat outdoors together. By choosing a different spot each time you can naturally interact with the things that are going on from watching butterflies to picking daisies. Just remember to get kids to wash their hands before eating as many plants and berries can be poisonous.
So there we have it, some great resources to turn gardening into a family activity and enjoy getting out together. For more information, take a look at our previous articles on Gardening With Children and Fun in the Garden. There are millions of cool ideas for gardening together, so if you have found one that works particularly well, please add a comment below so that we can share the inspiration!