Being outdoors is good for us. Studies have shown that more time spent outside leads to lower blood pressure, better mental health and physical well-being. Helping our children to foster a love of nature and the outdoors is therefore incredibly good for them, and will help them deal with the stresses of adult life in years to come.
Our gardens offer a world of excitement and intrigue for children. From watching bees visit flowers to finding out what’s living in your pond or making a parent-free den, there’s plenty to occupy and educate them, which will help them develop a meaningful relationship with the outdoors. Giving children their own space to play, as well as trusting them to explore and play without structure, is a great way to foster good decision-making skills, independence and good mental health.
As well as undertaking garden projects with your children, it’s a good idea to set aside cosy outdoor seating areas where they can eat, play and read.
More on gardening with children:
We’ve picked some of our favourite gardening tips and projects for children, below.
Grow your own food
Gardening with children – growing your own food
Growing fruit, veg and herbs is one of the best ways to get children into gardening. Choose easy crops to grow like strawberries, potatoes, tomatoes and apples, or fast-growing veg like salad leaves and radishes. Large crops like pumpkins can be lots of fun, especially if you then carve them for Halloween. If you can, it’s a good idea to give your kids a dedicated space that they can call their own, and encourage them to sow the seeds or plant the plants themselves, so they can be involved in the whole process from plot to plate.
More on growing fruit and veg:
Grow carnivorous plants
Gardening with children – growing carnivorous plants
Children are fascinated by carnivorous plants. Venus fly traps and sundews (pictured) respond to touch and children will have fun watching flies get caught in the sticky traps. Other carnivorous plants to grow include pitcher plants, also known as sarracenias.
More on carnivorous plants:
Create a mini jungle
Gardening with children – create a mini-jungle
Using plants to create a ‘mini-jungle’ is a great way to create an area of the garden where your children can explore and create dens. Choose tall plants like bamboo, along with ferns and hardy palms. Why not get the children involved with the planting?
More on creating a jungle garden:
Grow ‘monster’ plants
Gardening with children – grow sunflowers
Sunflowers are easy to grow from seed and can grow up to 2m tall if fed and watered carefully. Sow seeds with your children in pots in April and then plant them outside in late May. Protect young plants from slugs and snails. It’s fun for children to measure how tall their plants grow and how they can influence the height of their sunflowers by feeding and watering.
More on growing sunflowers:
Create a living tunnel or shelter
Gardening with children – make living dens and sculptures
A living den or sculpture is a great way to get children into gardening, while giving them a dedicated space they can call their own. You can buy special kits containing individual willow ‘withies’ that you can plant and weave together to create structures like arches and dens – you can even find kits that show you how to construct whale- or igloo-shaped shelters. These structures will grow and last for years, providing a long-term retreat or hideaway for children to enjoy.
Make wildlife habitats
Gardening with children – create wildlife habitats
Creating wildlife habitats is one of the most joyful, yet educational activities you can do with your children in the garden. Kids will love watching the wildlife and it’s fun working out how to attract specific species. You could do anything from plant a bee border to laying a slow-worm refuge or digging a pond. Why not buy some wildlife identification charts and set tasks for your children to record the wildlife that turns up to the habitats they’ve created?
Wildlife gardening projects to try:
Gardening with children – be creative
There are plenty of creative projects you can do in the garden, from painting plant pots and planters to making outdoor tea-light holders and even bird feeders.
Creative projects to try:
Grow fragrant plants
Gardening with children – grow fragrant plants
Smelling scented flowers can evoke some of the strongest childhood memories, so growing fragrant plants in your garden is a lovely thing to do for your kids. Encourage your children to pick out their favourite smells and create their own fragrant garden. You could even encourage them to mash up flowers of different plants to create their own ‘perfume’.
Fragrant plants to grow:
Make dens and hides
Gardening with children – build a den or hide
A large cardboard box could be all you need to create a simple den or fort, or even a camouflaged bird hide (pictured). Encourage your children to paint their own designs, using poster paint.
Build a treehouse
Gardening with children – build a treehouse
A treehouse is the ultimate garden retreat for children. Choose a big, sturdy tree and find designs online that meets your requirements. Then build your own or commission someone to build it for you.