Want to keep the kids out in the fresh air as long as you can this autumn? You’ll need to think of some creative projects so they can get their hands dirty in the great outdoors.
Research has shown that exposure to good bacteria in the natural environment can support children’s immune systems and that gardens can play a pivotal role in helping young people develop.
Four out of five schools that signed up to the RHS Campaign for School Gardening have reported gardening improved the mental and physical wellbeing of pupils, while 90% say it plays a role in skills development, according to the horticultural charity.
While the pandemic limited opportunities for many children to get outside and enjoy nature, families are now ready to make up for lost time and, even with the nights drawing in, there are lots of exciting ways for kids to keep active in the garden.
Emma Griffith, RHS schools and groups content coordinator, reveals her five favourite activities for children to do with their parents this autumn.
1. Become a pomologist
Pomology is the study of fruit and its cultivation, and there is plenty to study in gardens and wild spaces in every corner of the country. Spend a day picking or buying different varieties of apples and see which ones taste best.
“In the UK, we are extremely lucky to have over 2,500 varieties of apple – that’s a lot of picking! Try to describe what makes the apples taste and look different to one another and what you enjoy most about them,” she suggests.
2. Plant spring flowering bulbs
“If you want your garden to be filled with cheerful flowers next spring, now is the time to get planting. Bulbs like snowdrops, daffodils, crocus, grape hyacinths, iris and winter windflowers will give your garden a fantastic burst of colour in the springtime. Put in the hard work now and you will feel the benefits next year. Remember to wear gloves when planting bulbs as some, such as daffodils, can cause skin irritation and rashes.”
3. Make an origami seed packet
Making an origami seed packet is a great way to store seeds that you have collected from plants in your garden, she suggests.
“Recycle a page from an old magazine or use some sheets of scrap paper to make a useful pouch. Get into your garden on a dry day to harvest seeds. You can collect seeds from fleshy fruits by mashing them through a fine sieve and rinsing away the pulp in cold water.
“Store your seed packets in an airtight container along with some desiccant like silica gel and put them in the refrigerator. This way, your seeds should stay viable for many years. Remember to leave some fruits and seeds on garden plants for the birds to eat over winter.”
4. Make a wildflower piñata
“Making a wildflower piñata is a fun way to spread wildflowers and a brilliant and messy activity, especially during a celebration. Papier-mâché around a balloon makes a perfect piñata that you can decorate any way you like. Once it’s ready, fill it with loose wildflower seeds and hang it where you want your seeds to land.
“Arm yourself, or your kids, with a bamboo stick or a trowel and take turns whacking the piñata. Choose hardy annuals like pot marigold, field scabious, field cornflower, feverfew, delphinium, nigella and poppy and sow in September or early October. This will give them time to grow before the winter frosts and snow.”
5. Create art from the garden
“Get outside and collect natural materials to create art from the garden. Use autumn leaves, stones, twigs, branches, plant fruits, flowers and anything else you can find this autumn to create wonderful natural art to share.
“Why not research artists who have used nature as their inspiration for their artworks and think about different textures, colours and shapes of plants? Alternatively, you can use a scavenger hunt style game and create your art from whatever you find.”
For more information on gardening activities to try this autumn visit the Campaign for School Gardening website: schoolgardening.rhs.org.uk/home