Gardening with toddlers

Summer is coming to the UK and with it the opportunity to introduce your infant to the great outdoors. Being environmentally friendly means more than just recycling, it means actively engaging with the environment, and what better way to do it than helping things grow? Whether you have a garden or a windowsill, gardening is a great way to help your kids develop and learn about nature so this week we are sharing our top tips on how to get them involved.

 

Why is gardening good for kids?

Have you ever met a child that did not like getting messy? Us neither, and gardening is the perfect way for them to do it productively. Learning about life-cycles and food production can help instil an eco-friendly outlook in children from an early age, as they learn to plant and look after things they will later eat. Even better, growing the little ones’ vegetables in your own home is a sure-fire way to know they are organic, and free from any unwanted chemicals. Gardening also helps develop toddlers’ sensory and motor skills. We learn so much from the world around us at that age, and having a space full of different colours, sounds, smells, and textures is a great way to stimulate their senses.

 

With a garden.

Consider giving your little one their very own plot of land to take care of to instil a sense of importance and independence. Find earthworms for them to hold and take the time to talk to them about what they do for the soil, and you can also teach them about how food waste can be composted to fertilise plants and make them stronger. For kids too little to have their own plot, let them help with watering, picking, eating (after veg has been washed) and…making mud pies!

 

Without a garden.

No garden? No fear! There are lots of ways to grow things with your toddler without an outdoor space. Make use of your windowsills and left over recycling. Yoghurt pots, toilet rolls, and empty egg cartons make great makeshift planters – just fill them with a little potting soil and away you go! Start off with seeds and, when your plants grow big enough, get the littlies to help transfer the seedlings to a bigger pot. Also try putting a bean seed in wet kitchen roll and keeping it in a transparent container so the kids can see what is happening underground.

 

What to grow and why?

The most important thing is hardiness – there is nothing so disappointing as getting excited about your plants only to watch them all wither. The second most disappointing thing is to plant them and then for nothing to happen at all! Go for quick-sprouting plants to curb the impatience. Cress is a great choice, as are various salad seeds- and they grow just as well indoors as outdoors. Planting things you can eat is an excellent choice – you will help your kids learn about where food comes from, and you can even trick fussy eaters into enjoying their veg out of pride! Go for easy growers like lettuce and radishes which can be eaten raw; rocket, parsley mint and miniature basil, which grow perfectly on the windowsill; and tomatoes and strawberries, if you are feeling particularly brave. One more good one is sunflowers – they are strong growers, they are edible (if baby gets a bit too invested) and they will be a source of constant enthusiasm if you manage to grow them taller than the kids…

 

Our Top Tips

1)      Get your hands on some mini-tools. Improve independence and motor skills at the same time. Plus they look oh-so-cute!

2)      Put a label on it. Help keep the kiddies interested by getting them to make fun labels to remember what was planted where.

3)      Ask questions. Get your little one’s opinion on what to plant and where – make them feel like this is their project and you are just lending a hand.

4)      Picture this. Find and look through pictures of ripe veg while you are waiting for your crops to grow, so your little one will know what they are looking for.

5)      No such thing as too many cooks. Get the kids involved when it comes to cooking their produce – even if it’s just washing tomatoes or sprinkling herbs on pasta.

 

Got any family gardening tips to share? Get in touch over Facebook or Twitter and let us know! We also want to see your gardens, so share your pictures!