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Top 5 Things to Try in Your Garden This Summer

Matthew Appleby, author of 'The Children's Garden' offers helpful, easy ways you can get your children outdoors this summer! What's more, you can win a copy of the book yourself. Take a look here for more information.

Summer holidays are nearing and there's no better time to introduce children to gardening, and you can incorporate wildlife into the fun too.


1. Prising the little ones away from their ipads and mobile phones is difficult enough, but warm days help.

I find looking back to when I was a child, in the 1970s, gives me vintage inspiration on what to do outside with my two boys, aged four and seven. Children love harvesting. Anyone can dig potatoes. Potato prints are retro fun as an extension. Use colourfast fabric paint, biscuit cutters, and white T-shirts (and potatoes).


2. If it rains, a slug sock puppet is a way to help any squeamish children cope with yucky creepies.

Stuff an old sock with toilet roll or newspaper. Rubber bands make a pair of antennae. Stick on googly eyes and felt mouth from the 99p shop. It's a pet for life!

3. If you want the children to think about their eventual return to education at the end of the holidays, get them to teach you all about mini beast hunts and pond dipping.

They may well have learnt about these at school and you can compare notes and have another go. The essential garden tools I find are not a spade or fork but a magnifying glass and fishing net on a stick.


4. It worried me to admit it, but my boys love fire.

Have a bonfire of dry garden cuttings and cook foil-clad baked potatoes on it.


5. Build a den.

You just need some branches, a lot of foliage and bit of imagination. I also include pallets and any cast-off sheets of plastic in the pile of den ingredients I leave for my boys’ build challenge. They enjoy trial and error, leaning the material up against a tree and making the sticks stand up to make a semi-weatherproof cave to hunker down in. This is a simple, free idea that can take the kids back to nature.

Furnish the den with the world's cheapest garden chair, which is easy to put together at this time of year. Schools often have skip-fulls of discarded end-of term chairs. Skip-diving is generally a forlorn task - who needs broken breezeblocks or finished-with bits of old fence panels? But plastic school bucket chairs, especially if they are broken, make great seats for kids to laze about on in the garden.

Simply acquire some artificial turf (there may be offcuts in said skip, or the carpet shop might have some free samples) and glue the 'turf' on the legless chair. Children love the comfortable sense of ownership the seats give them.


Add to that rope swings, sandpits, water and sound walls (basically pipes or pots hooked onto a pallet to pour or bash with) and any sport or party in the garden, and you should have plenty of options to keep the tyrants entertained as the summer lags on.


For more ideas see The Children's Garden by​ Matthew Appleby, published by Frances Lincoln (£14.99).

Want to win this book? Take a look at our competition!