If you’re running out of ideas for keeping the children entertained this half term, then this week’s blog on National Children’s Gardening Week may just have the answer!

With the sun shining and the weather warming up (mostly!) many of us may already be getting our fingers green in the garden and, with the half-term holiday in full swing, what better time to get the children involved too!

National Children’s Gardening Week, which runs from 28th May to 5th June, is a brilliant annual festival to get children involved in as not only does it bring a sense of fun and clear well-being benefits for our children, but it also supports the Greenfingers charity which aims to set up beautiful gardens and outdoor spaces for children in hospices suffering from life-limiting illnesses (more information about this amazing charity can be found at the bottom of this blog).

Whilst gardening is something many children enjoy; they can be keen to see the results of their hard work almost immediately. How many times have you tried to get your child involved in gardening, only for them to become despondent when their little seedling hasn’t grown into a fully-fledged sunflower overnight?! National Children’s Gardening Week, therefore, was set up to run during the warmest time in May when children can grow many popular plants without the worry of harsh winds or a cold spell getting in the way, so motivating children to become keen gardeners for life.

In the same way that children are keen to see results quickly in the garden, we can think of children’s mental health and well-being in very much the same way.  There are many times in a child’s life when they might experience setbacks or times when they don’t experience progress towards their goals as quickly as they hope – whether that be at school, a hobby, or a sport they play – but they are very much still growing all the time. Just like in nature, we don’t always see growth immediately, but it is happening, and often in beautiful and unexpected ways! The same is true for our children too. Progress can be a slow and gradual process, but with small steps and the right care and attention, children can achieve amazing things. You can learn more about supporting the development of your child’s emotional growth in this way by reading our blog from Children’s Mental Health Week and the theme of Growing Together here: https://www.theyouthfairy.com/childrens-mental-health-week-growing-together/

How does gardening positively impact children’s emotional health, development, and well-being?

Not only does nature and gardening provide a wonderful analogy for growing in this way, but it offers wide-ranging well-being benefits for children too, including:

  • Fostering responsibility and confidence. Children love being provided opportunities to show how responsible they can be and this can work wonders for their levels of confidence. By being responsible for growing their own plant or produce, tending to it and caring for it, and watching the visible results of their hard work blossom, children not only develop an understanding of the importance of caring for another living thing but also enjoy the satisfaction of achieving something all on their own.
  • Developing an understanding of teamwork. Gardening is a brilliant opportunity for children to help out or work together with siblings on a small project. Ensuring everyone has a job to do enables children to practise the skills of turn-taking, listening, and communicating with each other – in a fun way!
  • Increasing awareness of the environment. Children are naturally intrigued about the world in which they live and many are keen to learn more about the things they can do to help protect and care for it. Gardening provides a brilliant opportunity for teaching children about environmental issues and some of the ways they can reduce their carbon footprint. It can be hugely empowering for children to feel they are taking some small action towards this, whether that be finding sustainable ways to collect rainwater, recycling materials and reusing them as planters, or encouraging more wildlife into their garden.
  • Developing mindfulness. Gardening encourages children to use all of their senses, from noticing the sweet scent of the flowers blossoming, to enjoying a magical kaleidoscope of different colours, feeling and hearing the texture of different plants, and even tasting the results of their hard-grown fruits and vegetables. Gardening is a sensory experience that reminds children to simply stop and just enjoy the present moment, boosting feelings of well-being and relaxation.
  • Promoting physical activity. The benefits of physical exercise are well-known but did you know that gardening is equivalent to other forms of exercise activities such as walking or bike-riding? All forms of physical exercise increase Dopamine receptors (the pleasure-seeking chemicals) in the brain which not only boosts children’s ability to experience feelings of happiness in the moment but also strengthens the brain’s ability to find more opportunities for experiencing feelings of pleasure and well-being after the event too.

What other positive effects does gardening have on the brain?

Not only does gardening produce the physiological benefits of physical exercise, but just being in the great outdoors brings well-being benefits for our children too. We’re all familiar with the positive effects a little bit of sunshine can have on our mood and one of the reasons for this is that sunshine can trigger the release of the hormone, Serotonin, which is responsible for stabilising our mood and encouraging feelings of positivity and productivity.

Here at The Youth Fairy, we talk a lot with children and teenagers about the positive effects of Serotonin and, if your child already works with one of the Youth Fairies, you will know all about how the 3Ps (positive action, positive interaction, and positive thinking) can impact on their ability to cope better and improve overall well-being and improved mental health. If gardening is an activity your child enjoys, it can help support this process and bring benefits for your child too!

How can I get my child involved in National Children’s Gardening Week?

So, if you’re ready to make the most of the outdoors this half-term (and beyond!) and give your child’s well-being a boost, National Children’s Gardening Week offers some great ideas to get you started, including:

  • Building a mini pond to encourage more wildlife into your garden
  • Creating a mini garden if you don’t have your own outdoor space
  • Designing a snail track
  • Setting up a treasure hunt
  • Making a home-made suncatcher
  • Building a pine cone bird feeder
  • Flower pressing
  • Making a hedgehog hut
  • Painting a garden fence mural
  • Building a fairy garden
  • Designing eco-friendly planters
  • Collecting rainwater and composting
  • And so much more!

More information about these fantastic activities can be found at: https://www.childrensgardeningweek.co.uk/fun-things-to-do/

To learn more about how you can support the Greenfingers charity and support them in their mission to provide magical outdoor spaces for children in hospices to share with their families, visit: https://www.greenfingerscharity.org.uk/