We are very keen that the garden will be 'for everyone to enjoy' - including children and young people.
From 19 November 2018, we have started a new group: Little Nightingales.
We have been delighted that so many children of all ages, from small babies, have been enjoying the space. They seem to like, at any time the garden is open:
Climbing on and up everything possible, hopefully safely.
Chasing people and things.
Cycling around the tarmac path.
Drawing with chalks on the tarmac path.
Hitting things with sticks, hopefully safely and without too much destruction.
Hunting for strawberries, raspberries etc.
Jumping from anything to anything, including the stepping stones in the flower beds.
Learning about compost and leaf mould.
Looking for bees and bee nests.
Looking for mini-beasts, especially chasing crickets and looking for woodlice.
Picking flowers, which we encourage - as long as we can't tell they have been picked (ie when there are lots of them).
Playing hide and seek (IT, tag).
Playing with dogs - but they need to be kept on a lead inside the garden.
Scooting around the tarmac path.
Smelling herbs and guessing what they are.
Spending time with their friends and families.
Watching salad and fruit grow.
These can sometimes be done when volunteers are on site:
Digging in bare earth - but please not in the meadow beds. We have a small blue worm digging bed now, with a mint plant growing in it.
Planting seeds and plants.
Pulling up thistles.
Taking cuttings of plants.
Watering thirsty plants.
Some of the adults are enjoying some of these things too.
A balance between people and nature
In 2017, the garden has an informal feel, with lots of informal places where kids can explore and move things about. We don't want it to become too tidy and precious but need it to be safe.
Where we are creating habitats for wildlife - the creatures need to be confident they won't be crushed underfoot or flung around (it has happened).
So, if you are visiting the garden with children, please keep a close eye on them - for their safety and that of any wildlife.
Also, when the garden volunteers are working - Sunday and Monday afternoons - please keep an extra eye on children so they don't injure themselves on any tools left unattended. This probably isn't the best time to bring lots of children to the garden, for example for a birthday party.
It seems like a wonderful idea to have children volunteer in the garden but we haven't found it works so far for us for them to volunteer when unsupervised. We are volunteer-run and don't have the training or infrastructure for this.
If one or two children come with adult parents or guardians to our garden sessions, we can sometimes (it is rather seasonal) find some suitable tasks for them to do supervised by those adults and with us. Like raking up leaves or moving straw or planting bulbs or plants.
We will always try to include families in what we are doing in our sessions but it isn't always gardening related.
We hope, in time, we may be able to offer more to young people perhaps:
One or more beehives, with observation windows.
Events of interest to children and young people. Maybe including making temporary dens and bird hives for hiding and bird spotting. We need more volunteers to lead these and some might need extra funding too.
Games to borrow to play - like boules (there is a set in the club hut) and table tennis (there is a table in the park and bats/balls in the club hut). We'd like to have skipping ropes, hula hoops etc.
Places to climb about informally that are also safe.
Primary science 'habitats', including long grass, woodpiles, and a nature pond (we have the habitats but haven't thought much about how to interpret them).
Some of these are still under discussion, some are in the queue of things to do, and some need further resources. Let us know if you can take responsibility for organising any of these or would like to collaborate with us.
This tends to be important, and even urgent, for some young visitors! The toilets are across the park in the old pavilion and are locked at 7pm in the Summer and earlier in the Winter. There is also a RADAR toilet, which might be open longer. They are pretty grotty at the moment but should improve when the pavilion and toilets are re-built - pencilled in for 2018 but more likely to be in 2019.
From time to time, we have had one-off events for groups of children doing some garden-related activities, such as cub groups, but these take quite a lot of planning and we are just a very small group of busy volunteers.
If you contact us, we might be able to meet you in the garden and open the club hut so you can have access to a kettle - but we are a very small group of volunteers and don't have a massive amount of spare time.
See the new Cambridge Wild page for links.
Eden Project online e-book on Working with young people.
Project for Public Spaces: Young People and Placemaking: Engaging Youth to Create Community Places;
Last updated: 14 November 2018