With most of us stuck in isolation at home, we're all looking for something to keep us from climbing the walls - but while we're busy dealing with cancelled holidays and panic-buying at supermarkets, it's important not to forget the impact this turbulent time is having on the littlest members of our households. With school off the cards for the time being and most extra-curricular activities cancelled, chances are kids are feeling bored, lonely and perhaps even a little confused because their routine has been thrown off kilter. If you're looking for an outlet for your kids that involves no screen time, gets them active and teaches them something valuable while also helping re-establish a routine, why not get them (and yourself!) out into the garden?

Research shows conclusively that gardening has positive health and educational benefits for children. On the health side, gardening-based programs are helping kids with learning difficulties or mental health issues including autism. Gardening is also a great way to encourage kids to eat more fresh produce - it's amazing how being involved in the patch-to-plate process can encourage them to add more greens to their plate. On the educational side, gardening can teach children about the environment, where food comes from and assist with the development of gross and fine motor skills alongside other important attributes like patience, perseverance, motivation and teamwork. Working in a garden also helps build confidence while encouraging relaxation - something we all need during uncertain times.

 

Gardening is an activity that both you and your kids can gain great benefit from.

 

Vegetable gardens

Many schools have gardens where children learn to grow fruit and vegetables, and even if your kids are having some time away from school right now, those skills can be built on at home in the family veggie patch. This doesn’t just mean getting them involved in the hard work of weeding and digging, but also the fun parts such as harvesting and helping prepare meals.

But getting kids involved in the garden and having fun outdoors doesn’t stop with just having a veggie patch. To get the kids outside, you have to be out there too. Leave the dishes, bed making and vacuuming for later - instead, get out of the house into the sunshine and the kids will be right there with you.

Small kids need little urging to pick flowers, collect eggs in the hen house, feed the fish in the pond or give the hens their late afternoon grain treat.

 

Growing and harvesting veggies is something that the kids will love - and so will you!

 

Growing more plants

All kids also enjoy creating new plants, whether from seed or cuttings. Succulents are very easy to grow from leaf or stem cuttings and can be grown in pots or in the garden. If sowing seeds, select ones that are large and easy to handle, such as sunflowers or cosmos.

For an instant effect, visit your local Flower Power Garden Centre to buy punnets of seedlings to plant into pots or add colour to garden beds. In autumn and winter, pansies are a sure hit. In spring and summer choose snapdragons, petunias or impatiens or fragrant herbs to create a real sensory treat.

The kids will enjoy planting up recycled containers such as old olive oil containers, colanders or old boots. Just make sure there are some drainage holes in the base of the container and then fill with potting mix.

Keep their interest going by making sure their gardening efforts are cared for with regular water, fertiliser and insect care (catching pests such as caterpillars and snails is another good garden activity for kids). Set aside a specific time each day for garden care, to help your kids get into a routine - it'll soon become second nature and they'll be bounding outside ready to care for their plants each day!

 

Even the littlest of kids can get into a routine based around the care of their plants.

 

Outdoor garden activities

Here are five more no-cost ideas for any time of the year to get kids outside and having fun. Remember, they’ll be more willing to spend longer outdoors if you can too!

  • Make every meal a picnic. Eating outdoors on a picnic rug is a simple way to get the kids outside. As a bonus, the kitchen stays tidy.
  • Set a garden treasure hunt. Make a simple list of things kids can find (such as a red flower, heart-shaped leaf, feather or a smooth stone) but to keep it a challenge, throw in a few curly ones too.
  • Backyard art gallery. Whether it’s the latest effort with the crayons on paper or examples of DIY craft projects, kids can make art works and then create their own exhibit by sticky taping art works to the fence, hanging them in the trees or even pegging them on the clothes line.
  • Improvise a cubby. Expensive, purpose-built cubbies soon gather cobwebs, but a teepee made from a few bamboo poles and a sheet gets the thumbs up every time.
  • Create plant labels. Smooth pebbles or small stones painted with a lick of white paint can be written on and are a great way to label plants in the garden.