Our Flower Patch

Inspiring a new generation of growers


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The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting

Digging

We’re on the second year of our pilot outdoor learning and enterprise programme for primary schools Our Flower PatchThe more we work with teachers and their pupils, the more we have come to realise how unusual it is for some children to spend lots of time outside. When I’ve accompanied school trips or run gardening sessions in school there are a growing number of children who seem scared to venture too far away, seem anxious around mini-beasts and are afraid of getting their clothes and hands dirty. But when they get stuck in, good things happen.

WalkingAny opportunity to get out in the fresh air experiencing the simple pleasures of life, exploring and investigating at first hand is time well spent. The pressures of modern life, where often both parents work and teachers are concerned about getting through the increasingly proscriptive National Curriculum leave little time for free range learning and ‘wild time’. And parents and teachers are the first to feel guilty about it.

How refreshing then to come across a book for parents which opens up the possibilities of what can be done to ‘learn and play naturally’. The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting is written by Kate Blincoe, former environmental educator, now mum to two growing children. Her ‘can do’ approach will strike a chord with anybody who wants to be that little bit greener, less wasteful and more creative in their approach to parenting. And, what’s more, you’ll find that many of Kate’s ideas are easy to achieve. You may even be doing some of them already.Cooking

The book covers everything from choosing toys, clothes and household products to cooking, growing, celebrating the seasons and getting out to explore the countryside. There are plenty of links to further resources and I’m particularly fond of the ‘grumpy granny’ sections – good old fashioned advice from someone who could be my own mother. It’s not rocket science, but in the craziness of parenting it provides reassurance that although it isn’t easy being green as a parent, getting back to the basics of natural play, gardening, cooking and taking walks outside with your children is achievable and good for everyone. If you feel swamped with the demands of modern living but want to take steps to get back to the simple things in life with your children, this is the book for you.

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The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting by Kate Blincoe is published by Green Books and is available from October 8th. Readers of this blog can order from the publishers here using voucher code FLWR15 and get it for just £12.59 (RRP £17.99), and get free UK delivery on all orders. Offer valid 2nd October to 11th October 2015.

All images ©Phil Barnes


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101 Things for Kids to do Outside (from May 30th)

Children in a garden tent

Making a blanket tent in the garden, a quiet place to read, to hang out, to snooze!

Hands up! How many of you survived Half Term without the aid of technology? Parents everywhere seem to bemoan the amount of screen time their children subject themselves to these days. I am one of them but my children will tell you that I am happy to engage in the occasional battle. They are used to ‘going cold turkey’ from technology. Yes. I was the mother who included a (beautifully-wrapped) funky kitchen timer along with their much longed for pre-loved laptops at Christmas. Strict instructions on use also included!

For parents who need a helping hand to prize their darlings away from ipad or xbox, enter a fairy godmother in the shape of Dawn Isaac. Dawn is a Chelsea medal winning garden designer, mother of three and author of the informative and witty ‘Little Green Fingers’ blog. She knows a thing or two about how to package and sell ‘the outdoors’ as a desirable commodity, providing children with a veritable cornucopia of low-cost, high-fun things to do outside. 101 things in fact, from racing snails* to igloo building and plenty in between. Activities are helpfully arranged into seasonal and location-specific groups, easy to do and will provide hours of entertainment.

This book is aimed at children who have lost the art of messing about outdoors without parental interference – or who never had it in the first place. Each activity is engagingly presented, beautifully photographed and written specifically for children. Parents can stay away and let them get on with it, though a sneaky peek will give the ‘olds’ a few ideas for ‘wild time’ parties and teachers the resources for creative outdoor play with youngsters in the early years at school.

Published by Kyle Books and available from HiveAmazonThe Book People and all good booksellers. I even saw it in the National Trust bookshop at a South Wales tin mine last Monday!

Well – that’s children sorted out. You didn’t think I’d let parents and teachers get off scot free, surely? You need a tech break too. Try the late Elspeth Thompson’s ‘The Wonderful Weekend Book’ – another gardener who understood the benefits of getting outside. Her book is packed with ideas to ‘reclaim life’s simple pleasures’. Do it. We can all benefit from paring down, reconnecting with the seasons and switching off.

And for long lasting reconnection plant a flower patch of course.

Snail racing team ready to go. Great fundraising idea for a school fair.

The snail racing team all marked up and raring to go! A great fundraising idea at a school fair.

* Some ideas may even be translatable into fundraising opportunities for your school summer fair! Last year at Sara’s village fun day one of the highest profit and most popular stalls was a snail racing stall entirely organised and run by some of the village children. It was so popular it will be back by special request this year! Young eco enterprise at its best! Sara is hoping the snails don’t race to eat the flowers on her flower stall! Oh! and that’s another reason for schools to grow flowers – to sell at your school fairs and cake sales and PTA events etc etc! Cally’s school garden group have been busy planning their marketing strategy for their school flower stall at their fundraising event. There’ll be more info on this soon. Suffice to say they are loving the real life experience of running a business that they are gaining through Our Flower Patch.

Doing the laundry in the garden. Washing dolly's clothes.

Doing the laundry in the garden on a sunny day! Another great idea from Dawn Issac’s book.

Sweeping for bugs. Long grass. Biodiversity.

We’re going on a bug hunt, through the swishy, swashy grass.

Nature walk bracelets

Nature walk bracelets, collecting treasures as you wander.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit for the photographs from Dawn Issac’s book to Will Heap and Kyle Books.


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Celebrate National Children’s Day UK (from May 10th)

Toddler holding a worm

Toddler holding a worm to get a closer look.

child enjoying puddle jumping outdoor activity

Puddle jumping – you’re never too old!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s National Children’s Day UK and here at Our Flower Patch we couldn’t be happier as this year the focus is on swopping screen time for wild time, getting children out of doors – whatever the weather and connecting with nature. Of course, for our members every day is about encouraging children into the outdoors, learning about nature and having fun.

Here’s a top ten of things to do today, even if it’s wild and blustery as it is in Wiltshire – the kind of things that Our Flower Patch members do every day whilst tending their patches. Parents and teachers, take note! This is about kids doing it for themselves, taking risks and making decisions. Let them get on with it and be led by them.

 

  1. Plant a flower seed – All you need is an old salad or grape container and some toilet roll inners, a bit of compost and a few seeds. You could try sunflowers but I like cosmos or calendula as you’ll have lots of flowers from one seed. Plant one seed in each tube. Once your seedlings are big enough you can plant the whole tube in the ground.
  2. Build a frog a home – We love frogs as they help keep slugs away from our young flower plants. A couple of old broken crocks in a damp, shady corner of your garden will work but you could trawl the internet for ideas for a frog palace. It’ll give you a screentime fix before switching off for good today.

    frog in daisies on our flower patch

    We love to encourage frogs to help with natural pest control.

  3. Eat your lunch out of doors – Food is always tastier eaten outside. You might be better off with a hunk of cake and a flask of hot chocolate today but in a few weeks you could be eating a full picnic with homemade lemonade in your very own den.
  4. Go on a slug hunt – Useful as well as fun. Look in damp, shady places, under stones and bits of wood.Keep slugs away from your plants. Build them a home somewhere well away from your seedlings in an upturned grapefruit half with a few lettuce leaves to keep them happy. Check regularly to make sure they stay away from your plants. (You may need to relocate stubborn slugs to your green recycling bin!)
  5. Visit a bluebell wood – It’s a perfect time of year for walking through a beautiful blue carpet of woodland flowers. They don’t last long which makes them so special.
  6. Learn to identify the songs of three garden birds – We love listening to the birds whilst working on our patch but it’s nice to know who is singing to us. This is a good place to start.
  7. Identify a wild flower – My favourite of the moment is cow parsley, as it looks so lovely in a vase with but there’s plenty of blue alkanet and wild garlic nearby. See if you can find any near your house.
  8. Fly a kite – There’s certainly plenty of wind around today. You could even make your own.
  9. Pull up some weeds – Weeding can be a bit of a chore but if you do a short burst of ‘speed weeding’ regularly, it’s fun. Learning to identify the weeds in your patch will tell you a lot about your soil and not all weeds are bad. You can do a lot with nettles, for instance and dandelions.
  10. Build a den – You can build a den from almost anything but why not find a space where you can build a natural den from climbing beans, sweet peas or even sunflowers. We use hazel poles for the plants to climb up. It won’t look like a den yet but it’ll be a great place to go in the summer holidays.
Child on a swing, Our Flower Patch

Enjoying the outdoors for National Children’s day.

 

Happy National Children’s Day UK 2014! Go on. Get wet and muddy today. Learn new things. Give nature a helping hand, and have fun!