Published: 06:00, 27 April 2020
Today sees the start of National Gardening Week, and as we are all staying at home, we have more time than usual to spend in our gardens and doing outdoor activities.
Here, Lee Connelly - the Skinny Jean Gardener of CBBC's Bue Peter, shares his ideas on how gardening can keep children busy; how to grow your own fruit and vegetables at home and how to get green-fingered, even if you don’t have a garden.
He says: "Gardening is not only a great way to get outside to get some fresh air and physical activity, but also helps you come together and have fun as a family, with everyone playing a role.
"If you don’t have a garden, balcony, or lots of space, you can still get involved by taking care of plants indoors and putting your creativity to the test with recycled materials around the home."
Lee's tips on how to brighten up your home with plants when you don’t have a garden:
Use your windowsills
The best part about growing your own plants or vegetables is that you can get creative and do it anywhere! You can create mini allotments on your windowsills out of the bottom of milk cartons and grow salad or herbs.
Attract wildlife to your home
You can create a bird feeder out of a plastic bottle and hang it from the window to attract birds. You may not have a garden, but you can bring wildlife to you!
Create nature-inspired art
Take your kids on an adventure on your daily walk and get them to collect leaves, twigs, flowers or whatever they can find. They can then use those items found in nature to draw or create nature-inspired artwork including animal models and brilliant pictures to brighten up your home!
Lee's tips on how to keep children busy with gardening during lockdown:
Create animal homes
If you have a garden, keep watch and see which animals pass by! Then build a makeshift habitat for any animals – these four legged friends - with your kids.
Create a hedgehog home
You can create this out of a storage box by cutting 15cm x 15cm air vents on the side and collect logs and leaves to cover it. Keep watch with your little ones to see hedgehogs to come along.
Make a bug hotel, which is super easy and a great way to learn about the world of insects. Hunt for materials such as leaves, grass, logs, etc. with your kids, then pile up all the materials into a house structure. Get crafty by making a ‘Bug Hotel’ sign to bring it to life. ‘Check in’ to the bug hotel every day with your little ones to spot any any new ‘guests’! It’s a great opportunity for kids to learn more about who we share our planet with and appreciate nature.
Make a mud kitchen
Need a few minutes peace while you get some chores or work done? Grab a couple of washing up bowls in a worktop kitchen style using pots and pans from the charity shop and let the kids get creative and try out their own ‘recipes’ using leaves, gravel, fir cones and sticks! Just watch out for being served any mud meals.
How to: grow fruit and vegetables at home with your children:
Grow your kids’ favourites
If you’re considering growing your own fruit and vegetables at home, it’s great to start out with some veggies and fruits you know your kids already enjoy to get them excited. Then add in some colourful alternatives, so that you can encourage them to become more adventurous with their five a day. Just remember to take your children on the journey with you, each step of the way, and they’ll be that much more engaged if they know the end result will be delicious.
Give kids their own space to grow and keep fruit and veg hydrated
Find your children their own garden or windowsill area to grow their own fruit and veg. By giving them their own space, they’ll be able to relish in the importance of their role. You can even give them the honour of being Chief Gardener to help them flourish! A great tip to keep fruit and veg watered is to get a recycled plastic bottle, cut off the bottom and poke a few holes in the lid. Then place it next to the planted veg in the soil and fill it with water to ensure that the water goes down to the roots of the plant even when you’re not there.
Label your plants
Try labelling your seeds when planted with pictures drawn by your children of what they will grow into. This is a fun crafty activity with your kids, and helps to create an image in their minds, while getting them excited about the end result.
Fun garden-inspired activities online
M&S has Little Garden activities including quizzes and online challenges for kids and parents at marksandspencer.com/c/food-to-order/little-garden
* Lee's partnership with M&S Food saw him going on a nationwide school tour to launch the new M&S collectable craze Little Garden, and get 10,000 children across the UK sowing and growing their own seeds, as well as learning how to nurture their seedling at home and watch it grow into a plant.
M&S has launched a series of activities on social media with families to enjoy every day of the week, including weekly Garden Get-togethers with Lee. Follow @marksandspencer on Instagram for more information.
The company has also recently launched geranium, lobelia, petunia and impatiens bedding plants for just £3.50 per pack, as well as bulbs and seeds from £3.