The great outdoors is all about discovering new things . You can encourage your child’s active and curious mind in a number of different natural places. But the best place is to discover all new things is at home in the garden. In this blog you find our 20 favourite ideas for creating your very own discovery garden.
We see our goal as showing children the wonders, mysteries and curiosities of the natural world.
This is not just because it is a whole lot of fun (although that is certainly a factor). The main reason why we seek to encourage this love of the outdoors from a young age is the developmental benefits that it brings.
The importance of discovery
The simple act of playing outside provides children with a heap of benefits, many of which will last them for a lifetime.
We’ve covered this topic in greater detail in a number of our blogs, including We must teach our children to smell the earth, see things grow and to care; Our 5 top tips for promoting curious and stimulating outdoor play; and The roles of nature and play in childhood development. If it’s a topic that interests you, be sure to go back and have a read.
In this blog, we wanted to focus on how you can facilitate a more curious and educational form of outdoor play - specifically, one of discovery.
The great outdoors is all about discovering new things - from the movement of tiny insects, to the growth of ginormous trees.
You can encourage your child’s active and curious mind in a number of different natural places. But, as wonderful as parks, zoos and forests are, we wanted to share our ideas for bringing this world of discovery to your home.
So, whether you’re lucky enough to have a large garden at home, or you want to make the most out of an outdoor balcony in your flat, this blog is filled with actionable ideas that you and your family can try out at home.
Read on to find our 20 favourite ideas for creating your very own discovery garden, both with and for your child.
You may be surprised to learn that a hedgehog could be living in your very own back garden!
They tend to be quite elusive creatures, who only scuttle about at night. But, in order to keep them safe and comfortable, you could add a hedgehog house to your garden - next you’ll be charging them rent and board!
They’re readily available on the internet, or you could have a go at making your own (this guide from The Wildlife Trusts is a great help). Then, pad it out with straw, and you’ve created a lovely snug spot for any visiting hedgehogs to stay in.
These guys are slightly less cute.
But, if your child is interested in these stickly creatures, then you could also build a farm for their pet slugs. All you need to do is create a small fenced wooden area (where you can keep the food). It only needs to be about a foot wide.
Then, on a rainy day, you can add leaves, vegetables and any decaying plants into the pen. This will attract the slugs to come and visit your farm for their dinner.
More and more, the bees need our help. So, a bee hotel makes a wonderful addition to your discovery garden.
The idea is that the bees can use this sport as a little place to stay and grow up. Bees can lay their eggs at the hotel, and this place then provides a safe spot for them to grow up, until they are old enough to fly by themselves.
You could buy a bee hotel pre-made online. Or, this guide from the Natural History Museum has all the advice that you need for you and your child to make your own bee hotel.
Plant more flowers
This is a fantastic, simple way to attract butterflies to your garden. Then, your child can spend many lovely hours spotting and identifying different types of butterfly.
The best butterfly-attracting flowers to add to your garden include hebe, buddleja, sedum, echinacea, lavender, cornflowers and aster. The easiest way to plant more flowers is with our favorite Blossombs
Your child’s own watering can
We all know how much kids like to take ownership of something. So, by giving them their very own watering can, you can encourage them to spend more time in the garden.
Plus, this hands-on activity will help them to learn all about how things grow.
A mud pie outdoor ‘kitchen’
Another thing that children love doing is making a big old mess.
So, add a little ‘kitchen’ station to your garden (it can be as big or as small as you like), where you can make mud pies together. This will get them stuck in (literally) to the garden, and while they’re at it, they’ll be keen to ask you all sorts of questions about worms, soil and plants.
A herb garden
The great thing about herbs is that they can be grown almost anywhere - even if it’s just a kitchen windowsill, these plants will quickly thrive.
They’re fast-growing, don’t require much care, and don’t require any previous growing experience. Then, your child can continue their discovery by using them in their cooking. They’ll be so proud to show everyone all the work that they’ve done.
A bird watching post
We love bird watching - it’s such a fantastic activity to get into, whether you’re 9 or 99.
To help your child learn more about the birds in your garden, have a read of our blog post dedicated to the art of birdwatching.
A vegetable patch
If you’ve got the room for it, you could expand your herb garden and start your own vegetable patch.
You can find all of our top tips for growing your own vegetables on our blog post.
A magnifying glass and bug net
Even if bugs give you the heebie jeebies, kids take great delight in seeing these critters in the real world.
You can get bug catching equipment which is easy for the child to use, and won’t harm any of the bugs. These include a magnifying glass, a bug net, and a clear plastic jar.
Simply head out into the garden, and see what you can discover. Use your net to catch a bug, and then gently pop it in the jar, before using the magnifying glass to have a closer look. Then, once you’ve had a good look at a bug that you’ve caught, you can gently release it back into the wild.
Add a mini pond
As we’ve already covered with the mud pie idea, kids are thrilled by the idea of getting mucky. So, a mini pond will always be a hit with children.
Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting that you install a water feature. Simply get a large bucket, add some water, and then add in some pond plants. Your child will love watching this ordinary bucket of water develop into its own little ecosystem. There’s so much there for them to discover.
Something as simple as a few sticks of outdoor chalk will bring your child hours’ of playtime in the garden.
They can draw on the paving slabs, brick walls, or even on large stones.
Rock climbing wall
If you have a spare brick wall or a large tree trunk in your garden, then you can easily create your own miniature rock climbing wall.
Simply buy the handles online, and then screw them into place on the wall. Just be careful that you don’t take them up too high, and that you distance the handles at the right height for your child.
It’s a sure-fire way to get your kids outside, plus it’s a great form of exercise - ticks all the boxes.
Living willow tunnels
This is a slightly more complicated idea, but if you’ve got a few spare weekends, it makes a brilliant family activity.
For this, you need to grow two lines of willow plants in your garden. Then, once they’re high enough, you can weave them together to form a living willow tunnel.
They’re loads of fun to run through, plus (for the grown ups) they make a stunning garden centre piece.
You can find out more about how to create your own living willow tunnel on the RHS garden website.
You just try and find us a kid who doesn’t enjoy a competition.
In order to get your children really invested in their gardening, you could set up a growing competition between everyone in your household.
You could do this with cress, sunflowers, or even trees (depending on how much space you’ve got). Use height charts to continually measure how your plants are coming along, and then to eventually declare your winner!
Bird houses and feeders
Even if your child isn’t particularly interested in bird watching, there’s a lot of joy to be had in listening to the birds sing.
So, to attract more birds into your garden, add a feeder or a bird house. You’ll soon see them flock to pay you a visit.
Give kids their own tools
If you’re wanting to create discovery growing spaces in your garden, we would highly recommend giving your child their own set of garden tools.
This way, they can really feel a part of the process, and commit to their special role as gardener.
If you have the space in the garden, a compost heap is a highly rewarding addition.
Not only does it help you to keep your home as eco-friendly as possible, but your child will be delighted to discover how food breaks down, and then how it can be re-used to grow new things. After all, the circle of life is all about discovery.
Create your own log book
With their very own log book, your child can record all of their discoveries - just like a real adventurer!
This can include whatever you like - such as space to record the heights of your plants as they grow, the dates where you sowed some new seeds, a space to record the birds that you spotted, or reminders to add new straw to the hedgehog house.
We’ve already mentioned the joy that children get from being able to see something as entirely their own, and this is just as true of space.
With our range of children’s outdoor furnishings, your child can create their very own adults-free space in the garden. There, they can feel completely at ease to create, imagine and discover the world around them.
And there you have it - our 20 ways to add discovery, adventure and intrigue into your garden.
These tips are a fantastic way to breathe new life into your outdoor spaces, particularly if you’re planning a staycation for this year’s holiday.
So, if you want to encourage your child’s inquisitive nature, be sure to head on over to the Mini Beee online shop.