First of all, let’s be clear: kids don’t help on the allotment. They trample over seedlings, they pick things that aren’t weeds, they eat blueberries before they’re ripe, they snap bamboo canes, they sting themselves on nettles and cut themselves on brambles, then demand you find them a plaster. Then they have a fit because it’s not a Peppa Pig plaster. They ask for snacks every twelve and a half minutes and have another fit when you suggest they help themselves to some spinach. Occasionally, they might put something poisonous in their mouths (like Lords and Ladies) resulting in a terrifying blue light trip to A and E in which you feel like the worst parent on earth for turning your back for two minutes. (True story. She’s fine. Though I did get a call from the health visitor to check I’d removed dangerous plants.)
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that none of the above really constitutes helping. Most kids don’t enjoy weeding. Frankly, you’re better off investing in a trampoline and hoping you don’t end up back in A and E.
I’ve tried giving them their own little patches to grow whatever they like, but to be honest they lose interest and I’m left tending a load of ‘cucumber hedgehogs’ and Chinese lanterns that I never wanted in the first place and aren’t even edible.
However, here are some other ways you can keep them
out of your way occupied on the allotment or in the garden, so that you can get on with something useful – like gardening.
1. Buried treasure
Tell them pirates used to live on the veg patch and there’s buried treasure underground. Then give them a spade and tell them to start digging. It’s amazing how long they’ll keep going for 10p. Even kids who don’t believe in the pirates bit. (Obviously don’t let them dig where you’ve just planted this year’s peas.)
2. Treasure hunt
A bit like an Easter egg hunt, only without the chocolate. Give them a list of things they need to find – for example, 15 things beginning with the letter P, or ten things that are red. (Don’t use green – they’ll be back in less than two minutes.
3. Mud Castles
Like sand castles, only with mud; and much, much messier. Never mind, think of all the weeding you can get done while they make castles out of dirt and scare the washing machine into retirement. If you don’t care, add some water to the mix too – it might buy you some extra time.
I’m not really advocating handing out matches. But you could try getting them to rub sticks together. When they realise that doesn’t work, get them to collect wood to make a camp fire. They’ll probably demand you cook on it when it’s finished, so keep some marshmallows handy (unless you’re planning on going all Bear Grylls and catching a rabbit or something.)
Give them a pot and see who can find the most worms. Or even better, slugs. Then you can kill them. The slugs that is, not the worms. Worms are nice.
6. Human composters
Appeal to their sense of toilet humour and tell them wee is great for adding to compost to make food for plants. Whenever they need a wee, let them do it in a bucket and help them ‘feed’ the compost, by pouring it in. Kids seem to find this equally fascinating and revolting. Then this happened:
A (aged 4): Mummy, I need a wee!
Me: Are you sure, you did one 10 minutes ago?
A: Yes, I’m desperate!
Me: Ok. Passes bucket. Returns to digging.
Two minutes later:
A: Mummy, I’ve finished!
Me: Well done, the plants will love it.
A: Grinning with pride. I did a poo, too!
(Ps – do not under any circumstances consider adding poo to the compost – unless it’s come out of a farmyard animal.)
Feel free to add your own ideas.