Growing up, I spent a lot of time helping my grandparents in the garden. From helping to weed the flower beds to filling up the bird bath with fresh water, I always loved to be outside and helping with the garden.
When the summer came around, the garden really came to life. The paddling pool would be blown up and filled with water and the swingball would be set up in a sunny corner of the garden. The whole family would come over for Sunday dinner and we would create dens at either end of the garden and start huge water fight, with my nan’s towels as our only defence against the latest super soaker to hit the market (no my grandmother was not best pleased about that).
So now I own my own house and have my own children, it is no wonder that I want the garden to be just as beautiful as my grandparents, so that our little family can create our own wonderful memories in it.
When we first moved into our house, the garden was pretty much as bland and uninviting as it comes and so after over a year of ‘persuasion’ I finally talked Mr. C into landscaping the garden so we could really utilise the space. He has built large borders around the edges, one for me to have as my pretty little garden full of different and colourful plants, one that will resemble a micro meadow with an apple tree in the centre and one for a fruit and vegetable patch. We now also have a lovely sized lawn, perfect for playing football or setting up a paddling pool.
Now that the main building of the garden structure is finished, we have begun to start planting shrubs and flowers that will grow and (hopefully) flourish to make the garden look beautiful. Oliver absolutely loves to be outside and so what better way to nurture his interests than to get him helping too.
Of course being only 17 months old, he isn’t the most skilled gardener just yet, but he likes digging holes and that’s a start, so we loaded him up with a fancy plastic trowel and set him loose on the garden. Now to be honest, he did tend to try and dig up the plants we just planted and I’m pretty sure he trampled a few of the freshly planted plants too, but the fact he was outside and enjoying himself was the most important thing. To be honest in a garden where there will be two young children running about, we need tough plants that can hold out against the most boisterous of attacks anyway.
However, when I’ve mentioned how we have been tackling the garden as a family, several people have asked how on earth we have managed to get our 17 month old interested enough to help. So I thought I would put together a list of ideas that we’ve found have helped to encourage Oliver to become a wonderful little gardener.
1. Gardening shouldn’t be a chore
When something becomes a chore, it stops being fun and starts to become a boring activity. Whenever we have a lot of gardening jobs to be done, we set up some classic ‘go to’ outdoorsy activities such as sand and water play. Children don’t always have the best attention spans, so in setting up other activities for Oliver, he can decided to go between helping us dig holes and filling them up with compost to playing in the sand or with his toy boats in the water. The main thing is that he is happy and enjoying himself, not how much time he is engaging in actual gardening.
2. Don’t get frustrated or angry
Although it is slightly frustrating when your freshly planted plants have been crumpled somewhat by a little person’s foot, it isn’t the end of the world and it is key to remember that a lot of plants are actually a lot more robust than we think. Obviously we tell Oliver to be careful of the plants and not to step on them, but if he does, it isn’t the end of the world and we don’t make a big deal of it.
3. Give them their own tools
Children’s gardening sets are fantastic when it comes to encouraging little green fingers. Children’s gardening sets can be as cheap as a couple of pounds, which makes them a brilliant investment. They tend to have very rounded edges making them very safe and are bright and colourful, making them all the more fun. Oliver absolutely loves him watering can and always wants to be watering the plants, the grass, the wooden sleepers and the patio.
4. Grow plants that can be used for activities
This is a really important one to us. We are in the process of building a pallet herb garden so that when summer comes around, not only can I use the herbs in the kitchen, but we can also use them for sensory activities such as smelling the herbs and making herb soup (check back in the summer for these). Not only will this make simple and cheap sensory and messy play activities even cheaper, it will make them all the more fun for Oliver knowing that he has grown the herbs himself.
5. Watch the garden grow
One of my favourite summer activities as a child was planting sunflower seeds, nurturing them and watching them grow. Sunflowers are relatively easy to grow and because of the sheer size of them, children absolutely love them.
6. Even if you don’t have a garden…
In more urban areas, garden space can be very limited. However that doesn’t mean your children can’t become involved in gardening activities. Growing flowers in a flowerpot that sits on your windowsill can be just as rewarding and it is always worth having a lot within your local community for any gardening schemes too.