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Outdoor space: An educational environment for kids


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Premier Polytunnels share tips for garden-based learning through half-term and beyond.

Half term is upon us, but with schools still closed due to the latest lockdown and the majority of UK teaching still happening remotely, parents and carers across the country having to step in to help both educate and engage their children, alongside balancing their own work load, even after half term ends.

Whilst there looks to be hope upon the horizon for those eager to return to classroom learning in 2021, for now, keeping children entertained whilst still maintaining a level of learning they will be receptive to is key.

Partly owing to the turbulence of the past year, anxiety, stress and other related mental health conditions amongst youngsters is reportedly on the up, and according to a new study from NHS Digital (2020) suggests one in six school aged children now has a mental health problem, compared to one in nine, three years ago.

And it’s not just children who have found the past year to be a challenge, as a recent study from the University of Oxford which surveyed 6,000 UK parents, has shown that stress, depression, and anxiety had increased since the start of the latest lockdown alone, with single parents highlighted as being hit.

As such, getting outside into the fresh air, has never been so important, with historic studies showing that taking time to step outside your home and experience nature in some format can have seriously positive effects when it comes to our mental health.

Whether it be on a balcony, in a yard, or if you’re lucky enough to have green space, in the garden, both the mental and physical wellbeing of adults and children alike can benefit from spending time in the fresh air.

Outdoor activities don’t need to be strenuous, and by spending time in the outdoor space available close to home can be a great way to incorporate learning, exercise and much needed downtime with ease.

Growing your own is a project that can be returned to time and again to allow children to watch the life cycle of a plant, as well as enjoying the fruits of their labour, depending on your plant of choice.

A recent survey from Premier Polytunnels, revealed the most popular plants grown by Brits in 2020, and included tomatoes (49%), roses (42%) and Daffodils (39%), which all thrive in British weather, offering an easy starting point for those looking to attempt gardening for the first time.

The top 10 plants grown by green-fingered Brits in 2020 were:

Tomatoes (49%)

Roses (42%)

Daffodils (39%)

Mint (36%)

Strawberries (33%)

Potatoes (32%)

Fuchsias (31%)

Tulips (31%)

Sunflowers (30%)

Rosemary (25%)

Deborah Wood, Company Director for Premier Polytunnels shared some top tips for getting the ball rolling with fun ways of learning in the outdoors, for those who need a helping hand.

Maths:

Setting tasks such as counting out the number of seeds required or measuring the millilitres of water needed is a great initial maths-based task.

Then, once the plants, flowers, and fruit and vegetable begin to grow, you can set weekly assignments to keep a record of the growth of your chosen plant - why not turn it into a friendly competition to see who can grow the tallest sunflower, or biggest pumpkin, cucumber or courgette?

Science:

Whether you’re growing your chosen plants in a greenhouse, polytunnel or garden environment, it’s not just plants and produce that make these areas their home.

Utilise the nature that can be found on your doorstep can provide a great science lesson to keep growing minds engaged. Keeping an eye on the bees, beetles, and other tiny creatures and the environment they need to thrive, as well as sharing information on their role within the natural world can really help to open their minds to the world around them.

Art:

Let their creativity flow by asking them to draw, paint or even put together a collage of their chosen plant through the different stages of its growth.

Whilst the weather is still a little on the cold side, investing in a polytunnel, if space allows, can provide ample shelter to sit inside for this task, as well as aiding in the growing of different varieties of plants that may prefer warmer climes.

Once fruit and vegetables are fully grown, encourage your little ones to turn the produce in to something creative they can later eat, such as a strawberry lady bird or a melon shark!

Geography:

Teaching your little ones a thing or two about Geography, especially when growing more exotic types of fruit and vegetables, can easily be turned in to a fun game.

Simply print out a map of the world, and have your little ones match the fruit and veg to the country they think they are native to.

Deborah Wood, also commented on the findings of the survey:

“It’s so encouraging to see the popular varieties of plants being grown in gardens across the UK, as gardening can help us to feel calm, especially in such turbulent times.

“Whether you’re creating a fun growing project for children or simply looking to grow your own, we recommend spending time doing some research and introducing structures such as an orangery, greenhouse or polytunnel (if you have the space), which can provide shelter and a more stable environment for your plants to blossom.”

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