How to keep kids entertained on an allotment without ending up in A and E

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.

4. Build a fire

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.)

5.Worm hunters

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!

Me. Oh.

(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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Becky Dickinson

Mum of three. Writer, blogger, grower. Trying to keep my head above the compost heap.

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Comments

  1. I have a couple more ideas:
    > If you have a heavy clay allotment dig some clay out and let the children play for hours making clay people (like small snowmen). Yes they get grubby but keeps them quiet for an hour. Leave them to bake in the sun (the clay people not the kids!)
    > As boys get older (six) they quite like wheelbarrows, my boy is very good at taking mine down to the car park to fill it with wood chip – I just have to go down after ten minutes and bring it back for him (unless I want one that is 75% empty). Often with him riding inside on the return journey.
    > Let your kids play with the local traveller community children (ours are next to our site). OK maybe I’m not advocating this one but my kids are often playing hide and seek with them, I only have to make excuses when they bring out the quad bikes and air rifles ;-P On the plus side their kids know my kids and my plot, which I like to think reduces missing pumpkins in the Autumn…

  2. Hello, just found your lovely allotment blog….. I too have a family orientated allotment blog. I have too boys too 4 and 5 who love our allotment. I’d love it if you could check it out. I’d love to hear what you think. Love the above post. Our boys love nothing more than an allotment poo in the play house… It’s become some what of a novelty I think they now save their poo’s for the allotment .. ha ha you can read our blog at http://www.purplesweetpea.com take care Claire oh and you can check us out on your tube too.

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