Gardening fun for kids

Tamsin Westhorpe is keen to fill the October half-term with adventures in the garden

Leafy heart
Be creative with autumn leaves Image: Tamsin Westhorpe

It’s not what you want to hear! ‘We’re bored!’ – but I expect that most parents and grandparents have heard these two words during a school holiday. With a little planning your children can be entertained for hours in the garden over the October half-term.
I’m not suggesting that you entrust your tribe with digging, pruning or the turning of the compost heap. What I have in mind are activities that encourage them to get a little muddy and a little excited. Those who have children will know that attention spans are short!
If the weather is mild, start your adventure on the first night of the holiday. Head out to the garden with torches and bucket. The aim is to see who can find the most slugs and snails. If you have chickens, the children will adore feeding their finds to the hens for breakfast.

If the weather is wet or too chilly for slug activity, then stay indoors and help the children carve those pumpkins for Halloween.

Pumpkin harvest
A pumpkin has so much potential
Image: Tamsin Westhorpe

Don’t discard the pumpkin flesh as it makes a healthy and rather tasty soup.

Sow and plant

Bulb planting and seed sowing is a task that children of any age enjoy. This is made all the more fun if they are able to choose their own bulbs or seeds to sow. Crocus and muscari will grow in small pots so are ideal candidates. Arm the children with gardening gloves (some bulbs can be irritant) and a plant label. It’s always a good idea to make a note of the date they planted the bulbs, so you can look back on the calendar and see how long they took to flower.
Children will love to sow cress seed as the results are so quick (within a week you’ll be adding it to egg sandwiches). Present the kids with a boiled egg for breakfast and ask them to try and keep the shell in one piece. After breakfast wet a couple of balls of cotton wool, drop them into the now empty shell and sprinkle some cress seeds on top. Place your egg shells on a sunny windowsill in egg cups, draw on a face and wait for hair to grow.

Mini beasts and birds

Insect house
A bug house provides fascination for children of all ages
Image: Tamsin Westhorpe

Some children are more interested in garden beasties than plants. To satisfy their imagination why not make a hibernating hotel for frogs and insects. This is easily done by stacking up leaves, cones, hollow stems, straw, and logs in a quiet part of the garden. An equally exciting alternative to this is to build a compost heap or invest in a wormery. Why not order some composting worms in the post addressed to your child? If that doesn’t excite them – nothing will.
Now is also the right time to put up a bird table. Encourage your children to keep a count of the number of birds and the different types that come to feed. Place your bird table so it can be seen from a window then bird spotting can be a wet weather occupation.
The garden is rich in colour. The artistic types will enjoy leaf rubbing, making collages out of leaves or pressing leaves and autumn flowers.

Leafy heart
Be creative with autumn leaves
Image: Tamsin Westhorpe

If a Halloween party is planned, they might enjoy decorating old jam jars with glass paint. These make wonderful night light holders.
Enjoy the precious time together and go out and make memories in the garden. You’ll also be doing your bit to encourage the next generation of gardeners. Happy half-term.

Top ideas for half-term

  • Plant bulbs – look for varieties with funny names such as Narcissus ‘Rip van Winkle’.
  • Invest in a grow your own mushroom kit.
  • Start a wormery.
  • Plant pots with winter pansies.
  • Put up a bird table.
  • Make a protected house for insects to overwinter or buy a ready-made insect hotel.
  • Grow quick germinating seeds on the windowsill indoors.
  • Paint pots or make lanterns for a Halloween garden party.
Tamsin Westhorpe

About Tamsin Westhorpe

Tamsin Westhorpe is well known as an editor, garden writer and lecturer. However, she prefers to be known as a gardener. She was previously Editor of The English Garden magazine and lecturer at Kingston Maurwood College in Dorset. Tamsin started her gardening career at the age of 16 working for her great uncle John Treasure of Burford House Gardens in Worcestershire. Alongside her freelance work and being a mother Tamsin runs Stockton Bury Gardens in Herefordshire with her uncles and is currently training to be an RHS judge.
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