Research shows that our children’s physical and mental health is directly related to outdoor activities. This helps reduce stress and improve self-esteem. These are 10 easy and fun ways to get your kids out of their screens and into the gardens while school is out.
1. CREATE A SENSORY GARDEN
Select plant varieties that are appealing to the senses.
Aloysia citrodora, Lemon verbena, and Cosmos, both plants that smell like sherbet, are great for this. Mentha Piperita f. citrate, which tastes like chocolate creams, is another great choice.
Wonderful tactile plants such as leathery Bergenia (Elephant’s ears) and soft, furry Stachys Byzantina (“Lamb’s ear”) are great for getting children back in touch with nature. These plants are a favourite of mine and my children.
2. GET CRAFTY
Kids love to make things.
You can have a lot of fun painting terracotta pots to use in your garden. To ensure your children’s creations look amazing, you should first coat the pot with emulsion.
Let the kids have fun with a wide range of colours, and let them choose what goes in the pot.
It’s amazing how cosy a garden can feel when you add a few hand-painted ornaments to the small ones.
Making your plant markers is a great activity for older children. You can recycle wooden sticks, purchase plant markers at the garden centre or collect flat rocks to paint or draw designs. It’s all up to you.
Have the children draw or paint a picture of the plants, copy the names and place them on labels. Then, let them use the labels by placing them in the right places in the garden.
A clonking wind-chime can be a loud addition to your garden. It can be made from sticks taken from your garden or collected on a nature trail.
3. PLANT FOR IMPACT BEYOND THE GARDEN
Choose varieties of plants that can impact the world beyond the garden. This will allow your children to enjoy the benefits of your efforts in other areas of life.
For a steady supply of stunningly striped cut flowers, you could opt for a plant that is long-flowering such as the Rosa (Rose) ‘Ferdinand Pichard ‘. These flowers can be used in your home to add vibrant colour to a vase.
Let your children learn how to water and feed these plants. Then let them pick the blooms or swollen fruits when they are ready. They will feel incredibly proud.
4. SPOT OUR FEATHERED FRIENDS
The UK has many colourful bird species, including Great Tits and Starlings, Gold Finches and Collared Doves. A birdbath or birdbath can make your garden more friendly for birds.
You can tempt them even more by making fat bird balls or a simple bird feeder using homegrown apples. Hang it somewhere prominent in the garden. Children will enjoy topping up the bird’s water with a small watering can or mixing the fat and seed in a large bowl.
Encourage your children to bird spots in the garden. You can give them a sheet of birds colouring, a word search or small binoculars, as well as a book about bird spotting. This will help them identify the birds in your garden.
If you have kids who love playing computer games, link them with this Color a bird’ game by the RSPB.
5. GIVE KIDS AN OPPORTUNITY TO EARN
It is a great idea for older children to offer them the opportunity to make a little extra money in the garden by giving them odd jobs that are appropriate for their age. They could be asked to water the plants, deadhead flowers, or, if they are responsible teens, even mow the lawn.
I fell in love with horticulture when I started working for local pensioners.
This is a great way to get children out in nature and teaches them about hard work and the potential rewards of being creative.
This helps with garden maintenance, improves gardening skills, and, if possible, creates a sense of accomplishment for the whole family.
6. CREATE PLAY ZONES
Gardens aren’t about borders and flowers, but they also have to be where people can have fun. You can make your garden more kid-friendly by creating different zones. This is something that is done often at nurseries and school playgrounds.
For example, you might consider mulching an area with bark chippings and giving your children buckets, spades, and dumper trucks toy for digging and tipping.
You could suggest that you have your dog some treats or a favourite toy for your dog to search for.
Another great idea would be to leave some kitchen utensils and pots next to a discarded border and invite the children to make something in the “mud kitchen”.
If it is large enough, you could create an obstacle course or circuit in your garden for children to ride on their scooters or bikes. This is especially useful if you have raised areas in your garden that can be used as ramps or hills.
7. IT’S A BUG’S LIFE
Mini-beasts are a fascination for many children, and my kids are no exception. They love to hunt down millipedes, worms, and woodlice in their garden.
This activity can be made as easy or complex as you like. It’s enough for younger children to learn how to roll logs and rocks out of the way to discover the creatures below.
To give your child a more special feeling, this minibeast-spotter sheet will help them match the shapes of the animals they see to the images on the sheet.
Older children can spend hours chasing down creepy crawlies by sending them a magnifying glass and a bug identification sheet.
Mini-beasts can be a friend to gardeners, helping to nourish and aerate the soil, pollinate crops and flowers, and even eat garden pests.
My experience is that children of all ages love decorating and making an insect or bee house. For tips and hints on creating your insect hotel, check out my handy guide.
8. GIVE THEM THEIR PLOT
Your children can decide the plot they want. You might not have enough space to create a plot, but your child could get their window box or pot in which they can plant whatever they want. It will be amazing how much ownership can make a difference to your children.
Mark a portion of your garden that each child will use if you have enough space. My father did this for my siblings and me when we were little nippers. We loved it. You can make it even more fun by netting their plot with a brightly-coloured low fence or painting a raised bed in every colour of the rainbow.
After setting up their space, go through gardening magazines and websites with your children and let them choose the plants they want to plant in their patch. This website has many recommendations, including easy-to-grow fruits plants and brilliant climbers.
9. JUST ADD WATER
I don’t know if you do, but water in the garden is something I find quite magical. A pond can be a great addition to any garden, especially if the children aren’t too young.
You can send your children on more nature-spotting excursions. Or you can get nets to send them pond diving or encourage them to build little boats out of natural materials to race on the water.
You can even involve your children in creating and maintaining a pond. If your children are old enough, they may be able to help dig the pond, line it, and fill it up with water.
You can purchase beautiful aquatic plants and fish to fill it.
Kids can help keep the pond watery during summer when evaporation can lead to water levels dropping.
Always supervise children around the water. A pond safety cover allows you to have a pond in your backyard without having to worry about someone falling in.
10. BRING THE OUTSIDE IN
Houseplants are a great way to keep kids entertained for hours.
Carnivorous houseplants like Drosera (Sundew), Dionaea macula (Venus’ flytrap), and Nepenthes (“Monkey cups”) are incredibly fun. They are not only beautiful but can also be used to get rid of unwanted insects in your home.
A compost bin collection container can make it easy to keep fruit flies away. These plants can thrive in bright sunlight.
You can also make your indoor terrarium with air plants or plant strikingly tactile plants indoors, like Tradescantia Zebrina (Silver inch) with its sandpaper leaves.
These are 10 brilliant ideas to entertain your children and keep them busy in the garden.