Last week in the Garden we had a couple of visits from groups of young children. Previously I have had a lot of youth work experience but only with older children from ages of about 6-12. This was a new experience for me and I was worried about engaging the youngsters in activities that I had planned and whether they would be too challenging for them.
The visits gave me a chance to have a go at supporting examples of activities that The Garden provides for under fives to create engaging outdoor experiences, helping them learn about nature. For example, I saw how the children could practice their fine motor skills and learn about places in the garden and plants. I learned that the children enjoy simpler tasks than I’d imagine would engage them. I enjoyed learning from them as it gave me further experience of what to do if I was to plan another activity for the under 5s.
On Monday, we had the childminder groups visiting the garden with three under fives. We organised some Nature Printing for the kids to take part in for the afternoon, allowing them to explore the garden and pick what they wanted to print with. The kids really enjoyed this. They got the chance to get involved with nature and it gave their little hands some practice of picking flowers and using a paint brush to paint small flowers and leaves.
During the activity we found that some items were better for printing than others. Dandelions created a fantastic print which looked like fireworks when many different colours were painted on the flower. A lot of the leaves worked really well when we painted the back of them where the leaf veins were most prominent. We could use some flowers as a paint brush – they were easier to dip into the paint than to paint directly onto them.
On the other hand, things like elephant grass looked as if they were going to work really well with their feather-like texture, but in fact it clumped up and didn’t look as good as some of the other plants we used. We also thought that stones’ ‘bumpy bits’ would create interesting patterns but the shapes never turned out like we thought.
The boys also went a little bit off plan. One had a go at painting strawberry fruit and dropping it in the painting water in a game of ‘will it sink or will it float?’. To his surprise it floated – despite his repeated attempts at keeping it down. Another was interested in combining different paint colours to make water a cool purple. It’s fascinating how something so simple could keep the kids so amused.
On Wednesday we had a visit from the local nursery and tried a couple of different activities. I lead a treasure hunt for different colours of flowers in the sensory border. Kids picked the flowers and collected them into individual egg-box treasure chests to take home. I talked about the flowers such as poppies and that the petals sometimes fall off when they are disturbed so they may not be worth picking. I showed them how to pick the blooms without pulling the whole plant up. The kids also loved this as many of them didn’t like when the whole plant was pulled up as they didn’t know if they could fit them in the boxes. Showing them how to pick the bloom allowed them to collect more flowers for their boxes. I feel this helped teach the kids about all the different flowers we have been growing in the Garden and appropriate ways to pick the flowers to avoid pulling the entire plant out.
Kaska also took her group around the garden with a photograph treasure hunt to explore the Garden space. Before the session we simply took pictures of different areas in the garden on the Garden iPad, which she then showed to the children asking them to look around to find each spot. She told the kids a little bit about each of the areas, for example the use of the polytunnel to grow heat loving plants.
I hope these give you all some fun ideas for exploring nature with your family over the October holiday. Fingers crossed for good weather!