Gardening is something that I have come love as an adult and it’s something that all of my children like to help with. As we have our own Dig for Victory garden, it’s an activity that keeps us all busy during the spring and summer and is always educational.
Gardening offers children the opportunity to learn about how plants grow and why we need them. It teaches them where their food comes from, why the process of pollination is essential and why it is important to care for their environment and all of the creatures within it.
But you don’t need to have a huge garden to teach your child about the wonder of growing things, a simple warm, light windowsill would be perfect.
Making grass heads is so simple and it’s great fun. They can live in the garden or on a windowsill and children will enjoy watching them grow, as well as giving them fabulous hair cuts when the grass gets too long!
There is a lot that can be learned from grass heads, including how and why plants grow, how to care for a living thing and learning about the seasons and how they impact upon plants and animals. Grass heads are a practical, handheld way to explore all of these things and much more.
Old tights, grass seed, compost, elastic bands, glue, googly eyes, a cup or old yogurt pot or tray to stand it in. (Something that holds water)
Pipe cleaner if you want to make the caterpillar!
To make the grass head:
Cut the feet off of some old tights, about 30cm from the toes. Like a long sock.
Roll the tights over a plant pot so that your child can easily add a few handfuls of grass seed. (See the gallery pictures with this activity.)
Then add hand fulls of compost. You can lift the tights off the plant pot and keep stuffing them with compost until you have a nice round ball.
Tie off the end so everything stays put.
In the middle of the face, pinch out a bit of compost to make a nose and tie it with an elastic band.
Add googly eyes with PVA glue or a glue gun.
Soak the head in some water, carefully not soaking the eyes.
Stand in a pot full of water on a sunny windowsill and watch what happens over a week or so. (Make sure you keep adding water to the pot!)
To make the caterpillar I used a similar technique, but I added the pipe cleaner antenna first, then the compost to form a sausage, then put my hand in the tights and sprinkled grass seed all over the compost, before tying the end and using elastic bands to make the bulges in his body.
He will stand in a tray of water.
Look after your grass head by giving it plenty of light, warmth and water and when its hair gets too long, give it a haircut!
Grow your own fruit and veg
Gardening with children encourages them to understand that that they are connected with nature and that they can have a positive impact on the environment. It also enables them to learn about the habitats and the inhabitants that surround them, as well as giving them an understanding of eco systems and where their food comes from. There is also a lot to be said for the benefits of getting their hands dirty and connecting with the earth. Gardening is a gentle activity full of total wonder and we love it.
Growing some of your own food offers so much learning opportunity for children and adults alike but, before you pick up the seed catalogue, think about the food that you and your family actually eat. It’s so easy to order everything that looks interesting, and believe me, I have done that in the past, but think about the essentials first. You need to consider the space you have as well as how much time you are able to put in – the more you grow, the more time it takes.
Things that are good to grow with children are: Potatoes (because it’s like digging up treasure when you harvest them), radishes (they grow quickly), lettuce, herbs, pumpkins, tomatoes, runner beans and flowers like nasturtiums and sunflowers.
*Note: potatoes and tomatoes are both in the nightshade family and the plants can be potentially harmful if eaten by children or pets. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t grow them, but maybe consider separating the vegetables off from the rest of the garden.
You can grow fruit and veg in pots and containers; you don’t need a huge garden to grow your own. Use windowsills, balconies, patios, attach pots to walls, make hanging baskets and plant smaller, but equally tasty and nutritious food. Herbs grow well in terracotta pots in full sun and the pollinators love them. Carrots do well in troughs and strawberries can grow well in hanging baskets. If you are growing in pots and containers you will need to water them more often.
Whatever you grow on whatever scale, talk about the process with your children and involve them as much as possible, you never know, you might even get them to eat their vegetables at dinner time!
Decorate gnomes or plant pots
Decorating gnomes or plant pots is a lovely way to personalise your outdoor spaces or windowsills. We got these gnomes from the Baker Ross Website, but I am sure you can buy them from many different outlets and they look really good with small bedding plants or herbs growing in them. They would also make a nice gift for a birthday or celebration.
If you use acrylic paints or varnish your creations once they are painted, they should be weatherproof. Bring ceramics indoors before the frosts come to prevent cracking.
Paint a plant label
We had a lot of fun painting these plant labels. We got them from Baker Ross, but you could easily make your own by painting on lollypop sticks or decorating large pebbles. Again, if you use acrylic paints or varnish your creations once they are painted, they should be weatherproof. Store them indoors during the winter and they will be ready to reuse next year.