The summer holidays are a great time to do something different and enjoy the outdoors and there are all sorts of gardening activities for kids to keep little fingers busy.
Even if you have never grown anything before, lettuce is simple and easy to grow and a great way to introduce children to gardening. Lettuce also grows quickly so your children will see fast results. You might find it difficult to keep your children from checking regularly how their plants are getting on!
You don't need anything complicated to grow lettuce: a container, seeds and soil are all you really need and if you don't have a watering can you can just use a recycled milk carton.
You can grow lettuce in any kind of container from tin baths to terracotta pots or even empty ice cream tubs.
Get the children to help you to fill your container with some soil or compost and allow the children to get muddy if they want to. I find that my toddler enjoys this part the most; he just loves 'digging'.
If your kids do get carried away let them play with the soil for a while, putting it in the container, taking it out again, running it through their fingers and even smelling it! You can talk about how it feels, what it looks like, the mini-beasts that live in the soil and how it changes when it is wet or dry.
Once your container is full put the seeds on a paper plate or in a plastic pot and get your children to pick up individual seeds and gently push them into the soil about 1.5com deep and 3cm apart. Don't worry if the planting isn't very accurate, we have regularly had piles of seeds in one corner of a pot!The seeds are often very forgiving and you will still get some crop.
Planting seeds is one of the best gardening activities for kids to encourage hand-eye coordination and develop fine motor skills.
Make sure that your container is in a warm, sunny place either outside or on a window sill and then water your seeds.
You will be surprised at how quickly the seeds start to grow green shoots and produce lettuce leaves that are ready for picking. Depending on the weather your lettuce should be ready for eating after four weeks. Just make sure that you keep watering your plants regularly and enjoy watching them grow.
When the leaves are ready you can get the children to help pick the leaves with their fingers or snip the leaves with scissors just a few centimetres from the bottom of the plant. It is wonderful for children to be able to pick their own salad leaves and enjoy the fresh taste of something that they have nurtured and cared for from seed.
If your children don't like lettuce then growing their own could be a great way of getting them to try new foods. I find it difficult to stop my toddler from munching on the lettuce when he is playing outside, he just goes and helps himself!
This is also a great time to talk to children about what they can and can't eat in the garden, so that they develop an understanding that not everything in the garden is safe to eat.
Our crop this year is delicious!
Kirsty is a mum of one energetic toddler who enjoys blogging about outdoor play, gardening with kids and education.
Blogs at: Damson Lane