An area of garden for a child to dig in becomes a place to find or hide treasure; a home made garden ornament or statue becomes a fairy or a monster lurking in a jungle
IN a world where adults are now spending more time thinking about the natural environment, are watching more wildlife programmes than ever before, and altering their life styles to be a little more environmentally friendly, it would be a terrible shame if we did not ensure that our children and future generations had at least some understanding of the natural and cultivated world of plants.
Whether the plants are part of the natural beauty of our lives or as primary producers of consumable materials for humans, animals and other creatures makes no difference; we must strive to ensure that our children can see plants and gardens as a vital part of the complex human process.
In recent years organisations such as the RHS and Garden Organic have developed and supported initiatives to bring gardening back onto the National Curriculum and into the life of schools.
With the enthusiasm of teachers and the support and help of parents and volunteers, there have been some excellent examples of newly developed school gardens that can be used by teachers to develop an interest in and an understanding of plants in all their strange guises.
One recent example at Shelley First School has only recently got under way and they now have an army of volunteers helping to develop a fruit and vegetable garden for the school.
Children will be able to see first-hand what happens when you plant a potato or sow a broad bean and, from these relatively simple processes, the teachers will be able to teach mathematics, geography, all the sciences, English, history and art using an outdoor classroom.
In our own gardens we can achieve much the same by developing parts of our gardens specifically for children, and, in a new book produced by Timber Press, called A Child’s Garden by Molly Dannenmaier (ISBN 978-0-88192-843-3), there are some 60 ideas to help make any garden come alive for children.
This is not just about sowing a few seeds and eating the produce, but about the garden catering for the mind of a child, with all its desires to explore and to create play acting and games out of situations that adults can only marvel at.
An area of garden for a child to dig in becomes a place to find or hide treasure; a home made garden ornament or statue becomes a fairy or a monster lurking in a jungle and a flight of steps and paths become a long road leading to some unseen wonderland at the end.
I have recently created a narrow grassed path through a small area of trees at the bottom of the garden, with the specific purpose of developing a small woodland garden.
Little did I know that my two grandchildren would decide this path could be used as a circuit with their bikes and scooters and we now have a mini race track, invented by them – hey, ho, surely, that is what grandad’s garden is for.
They are getting plenty of fresh air and exercise and I will just have to wait a few years before my woodland garden can develop.
So, take a look around your garden and see if you can create, with the help of the children, a garden or an area of garden that will draw them out into the green space and help them to understand and appreciate the natural world.
For more inspiration, you might also look out for a copy of Gertrude Jekyll’s Children and Gardens, first published in 1908, that encouraged parents to build play houses in the garden and to use small, blunt garden tools to develop dexterous skills.