Category Archives: Indoor gardening with children

Planting Sweet Peas

Having disappeared for a very long walk this morning – leaving Monkey Man (MM) in charge of all three kids – I felt I needed to put in some child-based time this afternoon.  I would have taken them outside, but it was drizzling and chilly, so far safer to do some indoor gardening.

I decided on a bit of sweet pea planting.  This offers a lot to keep children interested and it guaranteed MM an hour’s peace and quiet with Radio Five Live.

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First of all we made some eco-friendly plant pots.  For each one, you need a sheet of tabloid size newspaper which you fold in half then wrap around a suitable sized object (we used an old juice bottle) before sticking it together with sellotape. 

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You will have some excess newspaper below the base of your bottle which you simply fold upwards, shape around the bottle and sellotape it down to form the base of the pot.  Finally, simply slip your ‘pot’ off the bottle.

You can even create a pot without tape – if you’re adept at origami – just have a look at http://www.geocities.com/newspaperpots/.

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Now things get messy.  You will need to get a large bowl of compost from which the children can fill the pots.  I have a length of oil cloth which I use to cover the kitchen table for this sort of indoor gardening activity – you can buy this by the metre at any fabric shop.

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Once the pots are all full, you may need to exert some quality control, especially to check the compost has been pushed down gently to ensure there are no large air pockets.

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The children can make a 3cm deep planting hole in each pot using their own fingers and then they simply drop in a seed into each.  Be warned, the seeds are poisonous, but if you explain this and watch closely, there shouldn’t be a problem (most children baulk at eating soft green peas, so I can’t really see the appeal of small, hard brown ones). Also, make sure they wash their hands thoroughly afterwards.

I did soak my seeds for a few hours before planting.  This should help their germination, but it’s not absolutely necessary so feel free to skip this step.

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Once planted, cover the seed with the compost and water in (again, a very popular, if potentially messy activity).

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To make some of the pots look a little more interesting, we cut some thick paper to size and decorated it to form a plant pot cover.  You can do this by wrapping the paper around a slightly larger bottle and securing with sellotape.  This should then just slip over the sweet pea plant pot.

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Now simply place them on a windowsill and wait for the shoots to appear.  If you have a coldframe, you can move them out to this when they have 3-4 leaves.  If not, then just plant then straight outside when the soil warms up in May. 

You can put them directly in the ground, still in their newspaper pots.  This stops the roots being disturbed (which sweet peas resent) and the newspaper will simply rot away.  Remember to put some canes in the ground for them to climb or else place them near some trellis. 

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You should be enjoying flowers from June until August and best of all, picking the flowers prolongs the flowering, so the children can feel free to bring posies in to decorate the house.

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Making garden journals with children

OK, so it’s now slush, not snow, but with temperatures barely above freezing, neither I nor the kids fancied braving outdoor pursuits yesterday.  Instead, I invested £2 for at least 45 minutes of non-Cbeebies-based garden fun. Plus, I had two garden journals to show for it – I think even my visiting mother-in-law was impressed… 

Here’s the recipe:

Children's garden journals

Children's garden journals

Take one scrapbook per child (about £1 each from almost any stationery shop) and cover it with some wrapping paper – it personalises the journal and if it’s flowery, green or in any way garden-related, all the better.

Let them design a front cover picture, or for the very youngest, why not write out their name and garden journal title in big letters they can colour.

Begin the journal…  Let your own children lead the way, and for your own sanity, don’t worry about how it looks (this is not for a parents’ evening display).  However, it’s worth giving them a few ideas and options to see what piques their interest.  So how about:-

  • Plants they would like to grow – I gave my two a big pile of old gardening magazines and let them loose with the scissors.  Ava plumped for a Magnolia flower (and was slightly shocked to find it comes attached to a tree), Oscar went for more food based options with apples, tomatoes and, rather ambitiously, peaches
  • Pictures – let them draw their ideal garden or favourite garden feature
  • Seed packets – when you plant seeds, let them paste in the empty packets and perhaps make notes of what was planted when and also dates of harvesting
  • Photographs – with digital cameras, it’s very easy to let children take their own garden shots as you can weed out all those random, unidentifiable pictures without having to pay huge printing costs
  • Bark rubbings – a great one for the bleak winter
Cutting images out of old magazines

Cutting images out of old magazines

  • Pressed flowers – use some sheets of paper between heavy books if you haven’t a custom made flower press
  • Animal spots – find (or take) pictures of visitors to your garden, or draw the shape of animal tracks you have seen
  • Leaf identification – pick as many different leaves as possible and stick into the journal (best to do this after pressing and drying between sheets of newspaper for a few days) – and for older children you can try to identify them from a book or website
  • Natural colour – find as many different colours occurring in the garden – you can gather these outside with double sided sticky tape on a collecting card and then paste this into the journal.  Repeating the activity in different seasons will show you how the colours in your garden change.

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Create a pine cone bird feeder

We were bored. School was shut, pre-school was closed, the novelty of the snow was wearing off, and Monkey man (my other half) had disappeared off on a business trip for the entire week.

What we needed was a good old-fashioned wintry day activity. Cue, pine cones.

This is a great, quick project to keep children interested – messy enough for the 5 and unders, easy enough to supervise with a baby on your hip.

You will need:

  • 3 medium sized pine cones (as open as possible)
  • String or twine
  • a cup of lard (or you could use suet)
  • 2 cups of oatmeal
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 cup of birdseed (we used sunflower seeds)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped raisins or sultanas (or other dried fruit)

Pressing the mixture into the pine cone

Pressing the mixture into the pine cone

 

Take 5 minutes to prepare – chop the raisins, melt the fat in a saucepan over a low heat, put out the ingredients and tie a 50cm length of string to the pine cone

Put the fat in a large bowl and let the children start adding the ingredients and stirring it together

Spoon the mixture onto the pine cones and press it into the spaces (the children can even just use their hands – messy but effective) – I suggest you put their pine cones in separate bowls to contain the destruction a little

Clear up – don’t let the children move!  Anything they touch will be covered in grease.  I bought a bowl of warm water to the table, squeezed washing up liquid on their hands and made sure they were fat-free before they got down from the table

Let the mixture cool and harden before hanging them on a tree or bush, or even from an existing bird feeder

Ours now grace the small ornamental cherry outside the playroom and we eagerly wait to see if the birds visit.  We’ll need to wait 24 hours at least as they’re always wary of new additions so I’ll let you know later if we have a feast or a flop.  Still, it entertained the kids for half an hour so in my book it’s already a success.

 

Pine cone feeders hanging in the tree

Pine cone feeders hanging in the tree

 

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