My 5 year-old, like many 5 year olds, spends most of his ‘chill time’ racing around the house practicing his Spiderman moves or new skateboarding tricks which actually just end up being the Spiderman moves on a skateboard. When I announce “Shall we go in the garden” he leaps in to the hall and starts scrabbling his wellies on asking what we’ve got planned outside today. Sometimes it’s okay to say ‘Nothing, let’s go explore’.
Kids too can benefit their mental health and wellbeing by interacting with nature, it provides them a platform to focus, clear their racing minds and create a calm, safe place. So, put away the slide and hide the football. It’s time to get to know your garden with your children. There are a few things to try to create a calmer environment for the family to explore and feel more connected to nature.
Time without To-Dos
Kids love to mimic us and littlest ones love being given responsibilities, whether it’s composting leftovers or harvesting some potatoes, cutting flowers or feeding the birds. However, consider having some dedicated time in your garden without any objectives or plans to explore and investigate together. Give them 100% of your focus during this time, no phones, no jobs to do. Each time you get distracted or your mind wanders bring your focus back to your little one. Watch how they interact with the garden, what interests them most?
Having small magnifying glasses, binoculars or insect viewers to hand can help slow little ones down in the garden, whether they’re on their hands and knees investigating the soil or mindful bird-watching in the window. Finding stillness as they interact with and enjoy nature whilst encouraged to ask questions and investigate further. What happens when you add bird feeders to the garden? Do the worms like the soil wet or dry? What bugs can you find at different times of the year? What kind of homes do the bugs like, perhaps create some together? How long does it take for the seeds to sprout above the soil?
Giving them a section of the garden to play with and care for, sowing seeds and planting things, watering and even weeding! They might choose plants that would be better suited to other areas of the garden, but this provides them freedom to experiment and learn and have their own creative outlet. We decorate their rooms for them, we buy their clothes, but this is a complete free space for individuality and creativity. We gave my son a little raised bed, filled with soil and took him down the garden centre to choose some summer bedding. When we go outside he loves to check on it and water it, even when it’s so cold the ground has frozen.
Good Thymes Gardening is offering FREE kids Mindful Gardening workshops every Saturday from January 8th to March 26th for 3-10 year olds. They are held in the warm cosy Swansea Wellbeing Centre in the Uplands and in groups we explore gardening activities together incorporating our mindfulness practice. There are activities available to try at home through the Good Thymes Gardening website www.goodthymesgardening.com. Email us
firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to book your space.
If you’re a school, education provision or special group looking for support in your outdoor learn-ing incorporating sustainable practices, healthy eating and mental health and wellbeing through gardening, please get in touch with the Good Thymes Gardening team
Other than breakfast, there are very few meals in GTG HQ that don’t have a copious amount of garlic added. We tend to sow autumn planting garlic bulbs and onions, it gives a little interest and excitement early in winter and a headstart on the growing season. Usually this means we can free up space for summer crops too once harvested.
SOW: Spring planting garlic bulbs from January to March.
HARVEST: Wait until the leaves are sad, floppy and brown, that’s when you know they’re ready to come out.
TIP: Garlic is great for repelling vampires and many pests, so is an effective companion plant to factor into your veggie planning.
COOK: Mr GTG’s Warm Garlic Chicken, Butternut Squash and Kale Salad
- 2 chicken breasts
- 1 butternut squash
- 200g kale
- 100g feta
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 Tsp thyme
- 1 pink lady or gala
Honey and Mustard Dressing:
- 50ml olive oil
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 2 Tbsp wholegrain mustard
Optional – half a handful of toasted almonds
METHOD: First begin by peeling and cubing the squash, gently toss with some olive oil and 2 lightly crushed cloves of garlic (you can leave the skin on) and roast in the oven for around 30 minutes.
While the butternut squash is roasting, finely chop the remaining 2 cloves of garlic and gently heat in a pan with 3 Tbsp of olive oil for 1 minute. Add the thyme for another 30 seconds before adding the two chicken breasts. Press the chicken firmly into the garlic and thyme so that it coats and sticks to the chicken. Fry for around 8-10 minutes or until the chicken is a light golden-brown colour and not pink inside. Put aside in a bowl and cover with foil to keep warm.
Next, chop the kale into bitesize pieces, bring some water to boil in a large saucepan and boil the kale for 4 minutes. Take out kale with tongs and place on a tea towel for 5 minutes to cool. Then gently squeeze any excess water out using the tongs over the sink. Place the kale into a large salad bowl ready for mixing.
Slice the apple into matchsticks and crumble the feta, placing both in the salad bowl with the kale. If using toasted almonds scatter these in too. Your butternut squash should be ready to come out of the oven and set aside to cool slightly.
Slice your chicken breasts and mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl, adding salt and pepper to taste. Add the butternut squash to the salad mix, along with most of the dressing or to your taste, leaving a bit to garnish and loosely toss to incorporate.
Serve the salad into bowls and layer the chicken breast on top. Garnish with the remaining dressing.
Wellbeing through gardening
M: 01792 677027 W: www.goodthymesgardening.com