Out in the garden, the trees, flowers and the veggie patch aren’t the only things thriving.
Gardening with little green thumbs
Is there anything better for children than playing outside in nature, free from the confines of our modern world? There are a hundred different ways to get the kids out into the garden, enjoying the feel of the soil and the fruits of their labour.
Katie Steinwedel from The Garden Depot says there are many benefits to getting children immersed in greenery from an early age. From a simple task such as turning soil into mud, to growing and harvesting vegetables, Katie says there are endless ways to entice children into the garden.
“There are a lot of sensory things kids can start with, such as smelling flowers, naming the colours of flowers and taste-testing fruits and vegetables,” Katie says.
Growing your own plants from seedlings is a fun way to learn patience and children are encouraged to become less picky eaters when they try all the edibles they’ve nurtured.
“As children get older, it’s about looking at vegetables and taking it from the garden to the plate. It encourages healthy eating and they can see how the veggies are used in the kitchen.”
An easy way to do this is with a simple herb garden and, if you want to go all-out, miniature gardening tools and gloves help build excitement. Although, Katie says the bells and whistles aren’t essential. Even an expansive veggie patch is optional — if your garden is limited to a courtyard or a balcony, seedling germination or potted plants are great places to start.
Katie has created a place for the little green thumbs to explore their passion, with The Garden Depot’s Kids’ Club. The half-hour classes are set to begin in spring. Each group will hold four to six children of similar ages, ranging from kindergarten to junior primary.
“We’ll host seasonal activities, such as succulent cuttings, learning to grow vegetables and potted colour and then set up a group task in the nursery. We’ll keep it here as a display so they can watch it grow, but they can also take their own little plant home for them to care for. It’s something they can be proud of, while also teaching them the ins and outs of helping something to grow.”
Katie is no stranger to the joy brought to children in the great outdoors. Growing up with a father as a horticulturalist, a love of all things gardening was instilled early, leading Katie to become a landscape architect.
She’s now witnessing the same enthusiasm for gardening in her two-and-a-half-year-old niece, Alice. “She’s been gardening pretty much since she could walk,” Katie says.
“She’s very into smelling flowers and looking at all the colours. She’s always been one to get her hands dirty — she’s very interested in tactile learning.” Alice’s grandfather, Wayne Steinwedel, has built her a nature play area on his 15-acre property.
Getting into the garden doesn’t have to be solely about plants. Sandpits, fairy gardens and stepping stones are all enticement into the fresh air.
As much as children learn from the experience, Katie says there is a lesson for parents in becoming more relaxed about mess-making in play.
“Gardening definitely isn’t a neat hobby, it’s all about trial and error.”
This story first appeared in the May 2020 issue of SALIFE magazine.
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