Gardening with the kids: fun, family friendly activities to get your children helping in the backyard

Healthy, wholesome, productive and fun - it’s easier than you think to get your children working in the garden

Enjoy the garden with your childEnjoy the garden with your child
Enjoy the garden with your child

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Everyone knows that kids love being outdoors and greatly benefit from fresh air and activity, but sometimes it can be hard to persuade them to leave the multiple attractions available in the house.

To encourage them into the garden it’s wise to pay as much attention to showering them with toys and gifts for outdoor use as it is for those indoor activities.

And if you can persuade them to help with some of the gardening chores that need doing then not only will that help connect them closer to nature, but you might soon find you have a green fingered gardener on your hands.

To give you some inspiration for what might occupy your little one’s time in the garden we’ve come up with this list of toys, games and garden equipment designed with children in mind.

From essential items to playground classics, modern toys and tiny tools, we think there’s enough here to help encourage your kids to get all the fresh air they need.

If you want to keep them cool and comfortable when they’re done playing, consider a paddling pool or water slide from our list of the best.

It’s a good idea to give your child a dedicated space outside that they can call their own, whether it’s a small patch of garden, a big playhouse, or something in between.

Plum Play’s kitchen acts as an ideal focal point – it’s essentially an outdoor piece of furniture with a worktop and shelves that they can use as a base for garden experiments, or to study things they find while out and about.

Made from FSC certified pine, it’s sized 1600mm wide x 1158mm high with a depth of 703mm and has ample room for storage, a built-in planter, and an easy clean screen on which children can paint.

Set one up and it should instantly fire up your child’s imagination (science lab? art studio? garden nursery?), while its solid build and natural good looks will look at home in the garden, no matter what mess they might make while playing with it.

Kids love messing around with water, so a watering can should be near the top of everyone’s list of garden essentials.

There are all sorts of designs available for this simple piece of equipment, many of them in bright plastic colours shaped like animals – and while these might be suitable for younger children, we’ve found that older kids often like something that looks more like the tools mummy or daddy uses.

Bigjigs cans have the bright colour appeal, but they’re built along traditional lines, made from metal with a large opening for easy filling and with a long spout topped with a rose head, for steady, shower-like watering.

Get them one of these and they might just treat plant watering as one of their grown up responsibilities, besides having fun soaking everything else in sight.

Little Tikes has also adopted the ‘look like the grown ups version’ approach with its wheelbarrow and shovel set (albeit with a happy pink worm printed on the wheelbarrow and bugs on the shovel head).

The shovel has a long wooden handle and pointed metal head, which makes it easier for children to big with than a flat-headed spade, and the wheelbarrow has plastic handles and wheel fixed to the metal body. It also comes with a book for gardening tips and they even encourage you to convert the packing box into a planter.

You’ll need to provide minor assembly duties for the wheelbarrow (grab a Phillips screwdriver and spanners before you begin) but you’ll be up and wheeling in no time at all.

Both items are well built and should stand up to rigorous gardening duties – if it was a little bigger then you would probably want to borrow it yourself.

If you want to show your child the magic of growing big plants from tiny seeds then Little Pals seed kits are a good place to start. Each one comes with a pot, water tray, compost cube and animal plant marker, along with the essential sowing and growing instructions.

Add water to the compost cubes so they hydrate and expand (which is a fun job in its own right) and mix in with soil before sowing, then with a little care and patience you’ll have fully grown plants to appreciate.

The seeds chosen are all reliable growers and include sunflowers, tomatoes, sweetcorn and beans, the latter inevitably labelled ‘Jack’s Beanstalk’, featuring a tortoise as its marker.

We think it’s a particularly good choice if you’re having difficulty getting your child to eat their greens – seeing the process from sowing to eating might be all the encouragement they need.

Find a pair of wellies that your child likes and they’ll likely want to wear them all the time, so it’s worth investing in a decent pair that won’t damage delicate toes.

Frugli’s Explorer wellies are excellent for stomping around the garden – made from natural rubber (no PVC) they’re suitably soft and flexible with a tall, slim fit that helps to keep splashes away from the socks within.

And with colourful designs that include bugs, horses and leopards to show off to their friends, don’t be surprised if they beg to wear them to school too.

Briers produces garden equipment for the professionals, but they also have a great range of products suitable for children.

This 3-piece set makes excellent first tools for the tiniest hands in the family.

For under ten pounds you’ll get a hand trowel, fork and rake, each made from a solid wooden handle and securely fitted metal heads.

They may be small, but they’re also perfectly functional, allowing your child to explore digging and raking in their own patch or large tub of soil.

After use they can be hung onto hooks by their rope loops. For a few more pounds you can get the same set with the addition of a canvas belt to hold them in.

Of all the garden tools to kickstart your child’s interest in gardening, we’ll stake a claim on the rake being the best.

Raking is an easy skill to master so they’ll enjoy moving around soil or raking up leaves  – and, unlike a spade or fork, they’re less likely to use it to dig up precious plants.

If you’re keen to nurture green fingers over a number of years then it’s worth investing in a rake that will last, such as this quality tool from Kent & Stowe.

It’s a little pricey but has a solid wooden handle, stainless steel tines (we’ve found plastic ones have a habit of breaking easily) and comes with a 15 year manufacturer’s guarantee. It’s 85cm long and, despite its robust build, is light to hold and suitable for children of four and upwards. With a rake of this quality you’ll want to teach your child to look after and respect their tools as much as they care for the garden.

Skittles is the kind of game that can be enjoyed by people of all ages in almost any kind of outdoor space.

These handcrafted Janod skittles have extra appeal with six cute animal designs complete with felt ears (and antlers for a rather jolly reindeer).

The wooden pins are 17.7cm high and weighty enough to stand up to moderate wind, while the two wooden balls are small enough for three year old hands to be able to grip, take aim and throw.

And when they’re not being sent scattering, the skittles are joyful enough that you might want to display them inside.

When it comes to playground classics for your garden, we’ll take the slide over swings. It’s more portable, more secure, and less likely to shred your nerves as you watch your child at play.

The Qwikfold Big Slide is a solid lump of plastic with a wide base that is hard for a child to budge, and with rounded edges, wide steps and raised edges to the 5ft 5 shute it’s as safe as they come.

It’s easy to assemble and you can fold it up to store in your garage or shove it in the car’s boot when packing the nipper off to granny’s for the weekend.

Budding arborists have an enviable choice of toy chainsaws with which to pretend to chop down trees (and the fence, the shed, the dog, etc). Stihl’s orange and white piece looks every bit like the grown ups version, while Husqvarna’s effort, based on their 550XP, is bathed in even more orange.

It’s a canny piece of kit – switch it on and pull the cord to get it started and the sound revs up like a proper chainsaw, chugging along while idle.

The volume ratchets up a notch when the button is pressed to set the chunky plastic teeth in motion and the fun can really begin. If you stop using it then it’ll automatically switch off after a few seconds, preserving batteries and restoring parent’s calm.