The Time Is Now to Focus on Kids in the Garden

By: John Stanley

From: Garden Chic, January/February, 2013

The Time Is Now to Focus on Kids in the Garden

Have you looked around a bookstore of late? It is interesting what’s being offered in the “lifestyle” section. There is a range of books telling me what 1,001 things I should do before I die. This includes parts of the world I should see, foods I should eat, wines I should drink and paintings I should admire.

To follow on from this, the National Trust has launched a challenge, “50 Things to Do Before You’re 11-3/4,” which includes a variety of outdoor pursuits. At the same time, Jamie Oliver is trying to set up gardens at every school in the U.K.

As an IGC retailer, if there were ever a time to get behind a movement and encourage children to garden, it is now.

It’s not only children we need to engage. Many garden centres are concerned they’re not attracting the young adult consumer who has children. In fact, according to research carried out by the Garden Writers Association, this market sector is one of the lowest gardening spenders.

For IGC retailers, this is either a challenge and placed in the “too hard basket” or an opportunity that is waiting to be grasped. I believe it is the latter. Garden centres have an opportunity to engage with the consumer at a new level.

Children in all societies are being encouraged to move away from the computer and engage in some form of activity, preferably outdoors.

When it comes to gardening, parents today often don’t have the knowledge or skills to constructively engage with their children in the garden. This is where our industry can play a part in engaging the community. By relating to children, IGC retailers can also engage with their parents, who are often embarrassed to admit that they don’t have the fundamental knowledge required to engage their children in gardening.

Taking a Cue
Many suppliers are developing exciting products to engage children. This includes garden kits, such as Amber’s Garden, Growums, which provides interactive gardening video games, and new ranges of gardening tools for children, such as Twigz.
Now, the role of garden centres is to put promotions together that inspire local children to engage with their local garden centre. The need is for an ongoing campaign rather than a “one-hit wonder.”

We can take a leaf out of existing successful campaigns in other sectors and adapt them to the garden scene. This will ensure the idea is more readily accepted by the target market, as they will already have an understanding of the concept. “12 Things To Do in the Garden Before You’re 12” fits into this type of marketing structure.

Such a campaign could either be organised nationally or regionally, by an existing buying or promotional group or by an individual garden centre. It would definitely fit in with the marketing concepts that are being developed to get children active, except this campaign would be focused on gardening activities.

The challenge is coming up with 12 activities that are fun and engage the child, parent and garden centre. The activities would range depending on the region and climate. (See sidebar above.)

Connecting with Nature
As the book Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv has identified, we have a phenomenon that many people are aware of but couldn’t quite articulate: nature-deficit disorder. Louv’s book created a national conversation in the United States about the disconnection between children and nature, and his message has started to galvanise an international movement. Now, three years after its initial publication, a tipping point has arrived with “Leave No Child Inside” initiatives adopted in at least 30 regions within 21 states in the United States and in Canada, Holland, Australia and the U.K. Garden centres have an opportunity to build on the movement and to make gardening a fun and ongoing activity that will appeal to children and their parents.

‘12 things to do in the garden before you’re 12’
1. Build a scarecrow.
2. Plant a row of lettuce seeds, and watch them grow, then harvest.
3. Build a tree house or a cubby house.
4. Plant a tree or shrub.
5. Build a small pond for wildlife.
6. Set up a birdbath, and count the different types of birds that come to the garden.
7. Dig for worms in the garden.
8. Identify five types of insects that live in the garden.
9. Build a miniature fairy or dinosaur garden.
10. Plant up a summer flowering bowl or hanging basket.
11. Grow the biggest pumpkin you can.
12. Plant strawberries, and watch the fruit grow.

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