Activities and crafts

Beginners guide to gardening with kids

Multi-Gold Medal Award expert gardener and Mum of three Jane McCorkell gives her expert tips on why you should encourage your kids to garden in her Beginners guide to gardening with kids.

Beginners guide to gardening with kids

With the longer evenings and warmer weather fast approaching it’s time to embrace the great outdoors and get out in the fresh air with your little ones. With the summer holidays just around the corner, gardening is the perfect way to introduce your little ones to nature.

The garden is not only ideal for children to get exercise, an education and healthy eating habits, but it is also the perfect place to grow family memories. Research shows that one in 50 children in Ireland are morbidly obese, so when studies show that kids who grow their own food are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables, what better reason do you need to get them into the garden?

Kids can have fun looking for worms and bugs, while also helping to break up soil to plant seeds. By breaking up the soil, your children will have a messy old time while also helping water to get into the roots.

Studies show that kids who are actively engaged in garden projects also tend to enjoy learning more. They show improved attitudes towards education, as well as alleviating attention deficit disorders, which is a growing problem for young people in Ireland.

Beginners guide to gardening with kids

Getting outdoors

According to expert gardener, GroMór ambassador and recipient of numerous Bloom gold medals, “The best part of getting children interested in gardening is that they’re out in the fresh air. I have a big garden at home and my children who are nine, 12 and 15 are always pottering about in it and want to join in when they see me out working in the garden.”

If at the first your kids are reluctant to join in with the physical side of gardening – fret not getting them outside and away from their game consoles is a great step in the right direction. “They don’t even have to be doing actual gardening to enjoy it”, says Jane. “They just start chatting and get relaxed and they don’t mind being outside. They see you out there and want to be outside. It’s not like you’re asking them to empty the dishwasher, it doesn’t seem like a chore, and there’s a real sense of achievement when they see something grow. It’s instant gratification,” she explains.

Needless to say, by having kids in the garden aside from the countless health benefits of fresh air, it’s subliminally educational also. Jane says “It’s not just about fresh air; it’s a mental exercise too. It’s not necessarily all about the physical part. It’s a positive experience. They’re tired after the fresh air and happy and will sleep better, it’s like a gentle form of mediation without them even realising they’re doing it.”

She concludes “The best part of having children involved in gardening is that they come outside, become relaxed and start to chat. That’s really important and it’s amazing what you find out without having to quiz them.”

5 easy steps to gardening with kids

Beginners guide to gardening with kids

1 . On giving them responsibility

Give your child the responsibility of a small raised bed, it’s a challenge for them and they’ll be able to see how things grow. Last year I got my children to mix a load of wildflower mix with compost. They spread it themselves and loved getting their hands muddy. About four to five weeks later sunflowers started to grow to about two metres in height. They didn’t realise what they’d done until they saw the results. They loved it and loved getting their hands dirty without getting in trouble!

2.  On recycling

There’s a big focus on recycling at school, so children probably know more about it than we do, and there’s loads of ways to make it fun. Spreading compost or mulch on a flowerbed is one way of getting them involved – one fills the wheelbarrow, another pushes it and another spreads the compost. It’s fun for them and they’re using recycled material.

3. On planting a tree

Everyone should do this but be careful what tree you plant. It’s definitely something that should be done at schools too. Oak trees are specifically good for schools but at home you can plant the stone of your avocado (this is the seed) and keep it in the house. Start there and move up towards the oak tree. Oak trees are only suitable in the long-term for a very large garden or for your school grounds.

4. On making your own greenhouse

If you can make one of your own, make sure to put it on a south- or west-facing window sill. Cover a seed tray with cling film, leave it on the window and watch them sprout. Once they’re sprouted, remove the cling film.

But most importantly – have fun together!

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ASK LUCY

Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….

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ASK JESSICA

Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.