Create an Outdoor Gardening Studio for Kids
Gardeners invest much time and sweat equity tending to the garden. So how are you supposed to garden and entertain the kids at the same time without the assistance of electronic devices? A covered porch or patio is a great place to keep the kids busy on simple arts-and-crafts and gardening projects while you're busy in the yard. Gardener Marianne Binetti offers simple ideas for creating the perfect kid-friendly outdoor space.
Use waterproof containers, like old suitcases or plastic bins, to store toys or materials for arts and crafts. This chair, shown at right, does double-duty as a storage box. Stay in the garden theme by using lightweight plastic flower pots for storing toys. The pots can also be turned over and used as stools for the kids to sit on when they're working at the table. Use a clean, empty window box to store rolls of paper for easy access for art projects.
Hanging baskets and window boxes are great for adding color to the porch. Have the children pick out the plants and place them, pot and all, inside the hanging basket or window box. Since they're not actually planted in there, it's also a great spot for storage.
Equip this garden-inspired art studio with other necessities, including tables, chairs and even kid-sized gardening tools. Kids love to have their artwork displayed. If you've run out of room on the refrigerator, why not keep it outdoors (under cover, of course) by using magnets on a metal surface.
Consider what types of flowers you plant around the yard. Add some visual appeal with the twisted stems of a contorted filbert (Corylus avellana 'Contorta') or fragrant Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) whose flowers resemble bunny ears. Plants with unique shapes, textures, scents or colors add storybook charm to the world around your kids and provide inspiration as they get creative.
Lotus flowers are beautiful and large, about 6 to 8 inches across. After the blooms are spent, the seed heads dry, forming pockmarked holes in which the seeds rest. When shaken, the seed heads sound like maracas. The leaf is waxy to the touch and has hydrophobic properties; when water drops hit the leaf, they roll around like beads of mercury. Kids love to play with this plant.
Sedum 'Autumn Fire'
Don't be surprised if you see your kids plucking the succulent foliage or brushing the blooms of this easy-to-grow, low-maintenance sedum. ‘Autumn Fire’ which appears in late summer and thrives in arid climates. The blooms of rosy pink flowers age to a salmon bronze and finish with a deep coppery red.
Native to Australia, kangaroo paws (Anigozanthos) doesn't just have a cool name for its uniquely shaped, fuzzy flowers, but it also provides a good opportunity for a geography lesson. Explain to kids that plants grow all over the world, and have them observe the differences and similarities between plants native to the United States and those from other continents. You can also share history lessons about plants, such as how the plants got from Europe, Africa or Asia to their own garden, which plants were grown in their grandparents' gardens and more. The more you learn about plants, the more you can pass on to your kids.
Cultivate plants with fragrance in your garden. Kids have keen senses of smell, so they appreciate fragrance even more than we do. Roses, lilacs, sweet alyssum, iris and herbs, such as rosemary and thyme, have sweet and earthy scents that kids love. Fragrance encourages children to interact with plants by getting up close and touching them.
"Don't forget to teach your kids some of the simple joys of childhood," Binetti says.