I love gardening, and you’ve probably read elsewhere on the blog that my garden is my sanctuary, a place not just for growing and working in but for family fun and relaxation.
You can find children’s gardening inspiration all over the internet so I thought I’d put together some different ideas to try during lockdown. I’m talking fun, wildlife, unusual gardening and thinking about local communities too (once we’re finally liberated!)
Gardening is wonderful for health and wellbeing so it’s a great outdoor activity to encourage children to try though it can be daunting to get them started.
Right now during the Coronavirus pandemic lots of kids are bored, fed up and struggling to find interest in anything so I’ve put together some different, fun ideas to get children into the garden, not just to grow things but to simply enjoy nature and being outdoors.
Gardening for well-being
We’ve been a bit flat here at Kids of the Wild too.
Before lockdown we’d dreamed up dozens of fun children’s gardening projects for Caroline and friends to do with her Blackbirds gardening club but it obviously hasn’t happened and may not for months, if at all this year.
Instead we’re using lockdown time to plan garden club activities for the future. Caroline and I will still do everything we’ve planned in the garden, it’ll just be on our own rather than with all her gardening club friends. It won’t be the same but we count ourselves extremely lucky to have an outdoor growing space at all.
We’ll post plenty of updates here so that the Blackbirds can try things in their own gardens, and all you lovely readers can have a go with your families too.
It’s a hobby I believe strongly in passing on to the next generation, as a passion in itself and equally as a gateway to wider adventures and activities outdoors.
Find out what Monty Don says about gardening and mental health in his article in The Telegraph.
No garden? Grow indoors
If you don’t have access to a garden, check out my 22 cool suggestions for no-garden activities like growing astronaut food on the windowsill, or check out these 17 ideas for connecting with nature at home – there’s LOADS you can do indoors and even on the doorstep.
Things to do in the Garden with Children
To inspire children to get into it more, we need to make the garden a fun space to be. With kids at home 24-7 during lockdown, us gardeners can’t be too precious about our prize plants! Here comes the fun…
1. Turn the garden into a fort!
My absolute favourite idea for a child-friendly garden might sound anti-social to some but the kids will LOVE it; turn a hedge into a castellated ‘fort’ or ‘castle’ wall!
In 2019 we transformed this fast growing hedge into a castellated wall within a matter of weeks!
You can see where we’re still growing the gap to make a castle door. This is an internal hedge separating our back garden from land we rent as a veg patch, but you could do the same with any deciduous hedge. If the neighbours aren’t too keen it can easily be grown back to normal after lockdown!
NB To transform an evergreen hedge, you’ll need to seek expert advice or grow it into shape, like topiary, rather than cutting back existing growth, to avoid permanent damage.
2. Give children autonomy in the garden
It’s obvious really, but if we give kids their own plots, they’re more likely to identify their own gardening interests, which will be far more fun than feeling ‘forced’ to be out there by us boring parents.
Caroline has three small gardening spaces of her own, two for flowers and one on the veg patch. Consequently she’s growing 9 different varieties of Dahlia this year (including a new variety called Tropical Breeze which we are being sent to trial by Thompson and Morgan), all chosen by herself as I’m not a fan of Dahlias! Look out for our upcoming dahlia-growing post.
Allowing Caroline autonomy over her gardening choices has led to both her being enthused to get outside and me learning a new skill – I’ve never grown Dahlias before! Win, win, and thank you Thompson and Morgan for the inspiration.
3. Plant pumpkins for Hallowe’en
What could be more fun than watching your own pumpkin grow through the year to harvest and carve just in time for Hallowe’en?!
We tried this last year but planted our seeds too late so our pumpkins weren’t big enough by November; this year we’ve started them in the greenhouse, but a windowsill will do. It’s not too late, get planting now.
Instructions are on the seed packet – all you need is a pot, some peat-free compost, pumpkin seeds and a decent-sized sunny spot to plant them into once germinated. The seeds at the bottom of the page are sold in aid of Children in Need.
Time spent in the garden is much more fun when accompanied by birds, beasties and even mammals from the animal kingdom. Most children love the idea of helping encourage and look after wild creatures, making their own ‘back garden nature reserve‘. A simple way to start is with a bee hotel.
4. Open an Air Bee n’ Bee
My sister bought this one for Caroline for Christmas, and added the personalisation herself – Caroline was thrilled. We’ve yet to welcome any guests but we’re hopeful!
Position the bee house at least a metre from the ground, on a south or south-east facing wall in full sun. Don’t plant anything directly in front as the bees need a direct flight path to and from their new home!
5. Grow a grassy habitat under the trampoline
Why haven’t I thought of this before?! This year we’re not mowing under the trampoline, to see what wildlife the resulting long grass attracts to the garden. It saves masses of lawn mowing hassle too.
Initially just the cats were loving it but we’ve recently found a young frog hanging out under there, the exact result we hoped for.
We’re going to grow everlasting peas up the legs and possibly even ivy, so it feels completely integrated into the garden. Look out for pics on Facebook.
6. Grow wildflowers to attract bugs, bees, butterflies & pollinators
This is a favourite children’s gardening project and one that’s excellent for the environment. There are lots of different ways to grow wildflowers at home: –
Last year we were sent a pack of Bee Bomb seeds to plant – little balls of clay filled with seeds that you simply fling onto bare earth. I was very dubious, but they flowered last year and this year the space is overflowing with plants again.
This year we’ve scarified the front lawn and sown wildflower seeds to grow a proper meadow, but I have a bad feeling it’s been too dry as there’s currently no sign of growth! Watch this space.
Our very first foray into wildflower growing was in an old recycled wheelbarrow. Really simple and a fun project to involve the kids with too.
Read how we did it in my mini wildflower meadow in a container tutorial.
7. Grow a meal-themed vegetable bed
Veg growing, whilst therapeutic, uplifting and rewarding for many of us, might initially seem boring for some children until they see and taste the results later in the year.
Make sowing veg something really different with a themed plot such as a ‘Christmas Dinner Bed‘ (growing all the produce in time to harvest for Christmas dinner in December), or or a ‘Soup Bed‘ (with carrots & coriander or leeks & potatoes for a specific soup recipe) or buy a pre-sorted pack and grow your own pizza toppings! (There’s a link at the bottom)
8. Try native American ‘Three Sisters’ companion planting
This year, we’re going really different on the veg patch with a ‘Three Sisters’ bed. It’s a native American idea (so we’ll see how it works in the UK climate), involving companion planting on a mound of earth to grow sweetcorn, climbing beans and squash, with a flower or two added for prettiness too.
I’m working on a full post about this which should be out soon but what I’ve loved so far is seeing the corn seedlings produce their own water droplets – I’m not sure of the science behind this but will research it for the post.
9. Hold a social day in your garden
When lockdown is over, what better way to celebrate than to invite friends and neighbours to spend an afternoon in your garden – a great chance to reconnect with people after these peculiar months of isolation. The RHS Schools Gardening Campaign set up Grow Social this year with just this aim in mind. Obviously Covid-19 has put a stop to it for now but why not plan to host a garden social after ‘liberation’!
More Inspiration – Gardening, Outdoors, Lockdown
For more isolation and lockdown activities, check out the Kids of the Wild’s gardening pages and read our why nature matters suggestions. Try this simple coconut bird feeder tutorial too or make a calendar tree to count the days of lockdown.
For more kids gardening inspiration from Thompson and Morgan read their regular gardening blog round-ups, including some Kids of the Wild ideas. Check out their latest post here
Wild wishes for lockdown family fun in the garden!
Get the Gear
Click on the images to purchase supplies from Amazon.
Pumpkin seeds for Children in Need
Peat free compost
Monty Don’s Complete Gardener book
Taste of Italy pizza growing kit
Bee Bombs wildflower seeds
Thompson & Morgan Dahlia seeds