young boy looking out of window at the rain

Winter gardening with kids

Winter doesn't mean you have to vegetate; wrap up or garden indoors

Just because its winter doesn’t mean that you and your little ones are confined indoors; all you need are a pair of wellies, warm clothes and a waterproof coat and hat. There are lots of activities you can do outdoors, who doesn’t love playing in the snow and kicking around piles of crisp leaves. You don’t have to go into the countryside there are lots of things to do in the garden and if the weather really is so bad that you can’t go out then there are lots of gardening and nature related activities that can be done indoors.

Outdoors

Gather up all the dry leaves into a pile, jump around in them then make them into compost; either leave in a huge pile to rot down or place in black bin bags, stab a few holes in the bottom, squeeze out the air, tie the bag and leave for a couple of years to rot down. It makes a fantastic soil conditioner, especially if you have heavy clay or light sandy soil. If you just leave them in a huge pile they will provide an over-wintering site for hedgehogs and insects, just make sure that you check for hedgehogs before you use the compost.

Plant colourful winter containers; choose from bright primulas, cyclamen and pots of growing spring bulbs.

Plant summer flowering bulbs in the garden or in pots.

Dig over the plot ready for spring. If you have a reasonably sized garden let the children have their own plot to grow what they like.

Gather twigs, place into a pile then cover with a thick layer of leaves to make a safe hibernation place for insects, reptiles and small mammals.

Go out bark rubbing, just use thick wax crayons.

Make a bug hotel in autumn out of bundles of hollow canes, a box packed with straw, rolled up corrugated paper, bundles of bark and piles of pine cones.

Visit the Ever-changing Forest in Fairy World here in store at Ambleside and have fun playing games, searching for fairies and elves and trying to catch the elusive forest creatures. Head to the Events page for more details of opening times and the booking form.  

Indoors

Paint plant pots ready for when you sow your seeds in the spring; use an acrylic paint.

Go through seed catalogues and let the children choose what they want to grow.

Plant herbs in pots and grow on a warm sunny windowsill.

Grow healthy sprouting seeds in jars; cover the jar top with a piece of muslin and rinse the seeds in water every other day.

Make a garden on a tray out of compost, stones, ice lolly sticks for fencing, beads, cotton wool and anything else you can find.

Grow pea and bean seeds on damp blotting paper and you can see the sprout and roots emerging.

Cut up old seed catalogues to make a plan for the children’s plots, either in a scrap book or on a wall chart.

Grow salad leaves on a warm sunny windowsill.

Feed the birds and sit indoors with a pair of binoculars and a bird book to record all the species.

Grow plants from veg scraps in a saucer of water. Place the tops of carrots and beetroot and the bottom of celery, on a warm sunny windowsill, and after a couple of weeks they will have started sprouting new leaves.

Grow a sweet potato vine; suspend a sweet potato over a jar of water, with the bottom of the potato just touching the water. Replace the water every week. Eventually it will start to sprout and grow into a tall vine.

Make plant labels out of ice lolly sticks saved over the year. Paint with acrylics.

Make bird food out of large pine cones. Roll the cones in a mixture of soft suet, seeds, berries, dried fruit and nuts. Attach some string and hang from the bird table.

Make a hedgehog house in late autumn out of cardboard boxes, place in a quiet shady part of the garden, cover with plastic and a pile of leaves.

Grow cress in an egg-head. Use the empty shell from a boiled egg, fill with compost and sow a pinch of cress seeds, keep just damp. Paint a face on the egg shell with acrylic paint or marker pens.

Make jewellery out of sunflower seeds which have been gathered in autumn, paint them with acrylic paint and varnish. They can also be used to make colourful mosaic pictures.

Angela Slater
Daughter of a farmer and market gardener so have always had a connection with the outdoors, whether it was keeping animals or producing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I gained an HND and BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management, as a result I am an ardent environmentalist and have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening. In my time at Hayes I worked for several years in the Outdoor Plant and Houseplant areas