March 22, 2024

Little gardeners

Some simple outdoor activities will ensure your little ones can reap the physical, mental and emotional benefits of gardening.

Low-cost outdoor activities make for wonderful photo opportunities that can capture a beautiful moment in time, as Eiren Lyons has discovered.

When I was growing up, my mother always had flowers in the house and my dad prided himself on having one of the nicest gardens in the street.

We would spend weekends visiting garden centres and while we were driving around in the car, we would comment on the beauty of other people’s gardens. It was only natural that at 12 years old, my first job was at our favourite garden centre in Adelaide, watering after school and serving customers most weekends.

Today, I am a manager at a wonderful family-owned and operated wholesale plant market – my job is a passion encouraged by my parents. While you may not have an occupation in horticulture but do have a love of gardening, you can partake in some simple activities to ensure your little one (or older child) can reap the physical, mental and emotional benefits of gardening.

Many garden centres now have activities from jungles to mazes, animals (both living and statues), fairy gardens, playgrounds and cafes. Associating a great day out with plant shopping will make it easier for you to visit garden centres with kids in tow.

And it doesn’t matter whether your child is bathed in sunlight, or whether they’re jumping in muddy puddles, there is always something to do, see or be a part of.

All over the state there are nurseries waiting to be explored. The more we support these businesses, the bigger they can grow and continue to put smiles on kids’ faces for years to come.

We are lucky to have amazing public gardens on our doorstep in both the city and regions. Botanic gardens and nature walks allow you to connect with children as you can together physically see, smell and touch the flowers and foliage.

Children are sponges. Tell them your favourite flower and ask them theirs, because from that day forward, this information will stick for life. They will pick these flowers out wherever they go (yes, mum, white daisies).

Discuss the seasons and what happens to fruit and flowers at different times of the year. Locate a tree in a garden or park and watch it grow over time. What colour are the leaves in autumn? When does it flower? Who planted it and why is it there? Walking around parklands allows you to bond and is a wonderful form of exercise and source of vitamin D.

South Australia also has many hobby farms that allow you to spend a day picking and tasting produce. There is nothing fresher than harvesting by hand and eating straight from the source, making healthy eating more exciting. Different seasons will ensure there will always be something to do, whether it be picking apples in Lenswood or strawberries in Hahndorf.

Low-cost outdoor activities make for wonderful photo opportunities that can capture a beautiful moment in time. Search online for fig, cherry or sunflower picking opportunities in your region, and you should find all the details you need.

Kids can join in myriad school holiday community programs and workshops in local gardens; pot painting is a fun one.

Replicating your own little orchid or patch at home will promote healthy eating and is a great way to reuse plastic nursery pots or create garden beds out of old water tanks and laundry troughs.

Many childcare centres and schools have a dedicated area with a produce basket where children are encouraged to bring in homegrown fruit, veggies and plants to swap with other families. This provides the satisfaction of being able to plant, grow, and pick items they have watched flourish from start to finish.

From growing veggies, to pruning bushes, to enjoying the fruits from the garden, there are many ways to ensure children can start a love of gardening in their formative years.

Proudly sharing their own produce with other children and telling their gardening stories is priceless. They may inspire their friends to go home and do the same. If their school hasn’t got a program like this available, why not suggest it?

One of the easiest locations to get your child into gardening is in your own backyard. For the older ones, allow them to have their own space to create and look after, providing them with the opportunity to develop responsibilities and self-confidence.

Raising seeds to plants and understanding their specific needs such as sun tolerance and watering requirements will allow them to gain a sense of accomplishment. Propagating indoor plants is another fun activity.

Gardens have been proven to reduce stress and depression in all ages. Stepping outside away from social media can improve the ability to focus and concentrate. Make it fun; it always feels good to accomplish new tasks.

For the younger ones, it’s important to encourage outdoor play. You can use existing trees for cubbies, use logs as stepping stones and create a hill to roll down. Fill the garden with plants such as buddleia, lavenders and grevilleas to attract insects and birds.

The magic of butterflies and blooms opens a new world of imagination. Use plants with texture, colour, smell and even sound to ignite the senses. The exposure to nature has been known to go hand-in-hand with health benefits such as reducing allergies and strengthening immune systems.

Don’t forget that as adults, we have the responsibility to keep the space safe and free of dangers like fertilisers and chemicals. Research and seek out advice on poisonous species that should not be planted.

From as early as I can remember, I’ve loved gardening. I loved the smell of flowers and the dirt on my hands. It wasn’t anything that was forced upon me, it was my own passion that I found and developed over the years. Did it help that my parents also loved gardening? It certainly had something to do with it.

Do I hope my son has the same interest in the great outdoors? I sure do. You can only imagine how proud I am that at the tender age of three, I see the start of something beautiful in his relationship with nature.

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