Seven ways to amp up your garden as a learning space

In partnership with Groupon

Sunny warm days not quite here just yet in Cornwall (I was wearing my winter jacket yesterday!) but we’ve had the odd summer-like day and that’s been enough to lure my children back into the garden. They’ve pretty much decided to live there now.

So I’ve been thinking of ways to improve the space so they can get the most out of it. We love lazy days at home and if we can make those days spent outside, all the better. Here are a few things we’ve done and a few on my list to get going over the coming weeks.

1. Take nature walks in your garden
When I was home educating with a newborn a couple of years ago, I relied on being able to head into the garden for a bit to give us all our hit of the outdoors without having to actually leave home. Taking it easy was definitely the season we were in.

Since moving to Cornwall, I’ve felt we always need to be going somewhere exciting to really get into nature, even if that means taking to the woods across from our house. But that can put a lot of pressure on our time in busy weeks so actually, being able to treat a potter around our little garden as a nature walk can be quite freeing.

So last week, we did just that, observing the wildflowers in our garden. It may be that you take the time to check out some snails and read about them or keep some bird books by the door so the kids can identify what they see or even just note the questions the kids ask while playing outdoors to suggest finding answers later.

Invite nature into your garden
On that note, could you invite more critters into your garden? A friend made a pond with an old tub and this year, a frog laid it’s eggs in it – amazing to watch! We’re looking forward to getting a pond going ourselves. If we attract frogs, hopefully they’ll also help combat our slug problem.

Even with less space, you could hang a bird feeder or build a bug hotel. Great for observation and much needed, especially during the winter.

Take your read alouds and projects outside
If you have more sedentary activities you’re working on, you could suggest taking them outside, whether it’s painting or writing, a maths workbook or a science experiment. I often take a stack of books out and read them aloud on our garden bench while the kids play or make daisy chains.

A couple of years ago, Talitha had a morning routine for a while of checking the tomato plants and sitting at the table on the patio to write down what she noticed about them. It could be investing in some new garden furniture or even keeping a picnic blanket to hand to encourage everyone to take projects out there.

Make it a play space
Forget learning through play – play is learning. A really simple way to get young children to spend more time in the garden is to set it up as a play space. There are so many options from putting up a trampoline to building a play house to getting a rocker or a water table.

We actually have a very tiny garden so we’ve opted for a mud kitchen, which at the moment is just a table Laurence made from an old pallet, some kitchen bits we were getting rid of anyway and a corner of the garden that the kids are allowed to dig. I’d love to set up something more organised and visually appealing but they love it even as it is.

Get growing
Of course an obvious way to spend time learning outdoors is to grow things. We currently have salad in our front garden and we’re planting sunflowers and a wildflower “meadow” this week. Even if you just plant a couple of pots, there is so much to learn from that process, especially if the kids can eat what they grow.

Observe the weather
Get a rain gauge and an outdoor thermometer up and the weather patterns suddenly become very interesting! We need to get a chart going so the girls can note their findings.

Have a picnic
Finally, take a break outside. Eat lunch or dinner there. Move poetry tea time on to the grass. It pretty much makes our day whenever we do this and meals in the garden can lead to interesting conversations about all sorts of things around us.

Are you working on any garden projects with your kids this year? Do you have a garden bucket list for the Spring/Summer months, maybe?

Thanks to Groupon for working with me on this post


The Children’s Garden by Matthew Appleby

A while ago, I was sent The Children’s Garden a book filled with inspiration for things to make and do with children the garden. It’s written by Matthew Appleby, a former primary school teacher and author of The Allotment Planner. An aesthetically pleasing hardback, full of beautiful and helpfully instructive images, it’s a real pleasure to own and lovely book for the kids to flick through to see if anything appeals if they’re at a loose end.

The Children's Garden by Matthew Appleby-2

The book presents 52 family projects, themed and ordered by season, ranging from dead-easy, (nighttime snail watch with a torch, anyone?) to reasonably challenging (why not keep some chickens?). Everything is given careful step by steps, not assuming knowledge. There are even follow up ideas to take activities further and deepen your family’s outdoor experience. Some projects even take you beyond the confines of your own garden.

Looking ahead to Autumn, I’ve nabbed a few ideas from The Children’s Garden for our bucket list. We’ll hopefully be picking apples and blackberries and making crumble, crafting temporary collages with collected Autumn items, carving pumpkins and toasting marshmallows over a bonfire in our garden.

The Children's Garden by Matthew Appleby-3

We don’t need too much beckoning to get outdoors generally but I imagine once the weather gets colder, I’ll be glad of easy inspiration when my hands are full with the baby and my older two. I can particularly see this book helping those who don’t spend that much time in their gardens but would like to.