We are very keen that the garden will be 'for everyone to enjoy' - including children and young people. It is open every day so anyone can ‘help themselves’. If volunteers are in the garden we try to say hello and help out.
From 19 October 2018, we started a new Friday afternoon group: Little Nightingales.
We are very happy that schools and groups are visiting the garden, including for:
Primary science 'habitats', including long grass, bug hotels, woodpiles, stag beetle logs and a nature pond. We are starting to put up small notices to help teachers interpret these - see the resources page for links to them.
Pond-dipping in our nature pond is very popular with all ages. We also have a mini-pond next to the main pond so we can get 'up-close' to frogs etc.
We also organise, from time to time, events of interest to children and young people. These are advertised on the garden noticeboard and via the Queen Edith’s Community Forum ‘What’s on guide’, which can be e-mailed to you every Friday afternoon.
We have had sessions about worms and composting, garden crafts, moth traps, bat walks, giant bubble making, bonfire bread and toasted marshmallows etc. But they are very weather dependent and also dependent on volunteer capacity.
Games and toys to borrow: we have City Council table tennis bats and balls in the club hut. We also have a chalks, jigsaws, books and toys for little children.
Informal play: children seem to enjoy:
Climbing on and up everything possible, hopefully safely.
Chasing people and things.
Cycling around the tarmac path.
Hunting for strawberries, raspberries etc.
Running around and 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.
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.
Watching salad and fruit grow.
A balance between people and nature
The garden has an informal feel, with lots of 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 - on 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.
Volunteering and informal helping out
It seems like a wonderful idea to have children and young people volunteer in the garden but we haven't found it works for them to volunteer when unsupervised - and we don’t have insurance cover for this. We are volunteer-led and don't have the training or infrastructure for children to volunteer on their own.
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:
Planting seeds and plants.
Pulling up thistles.
Watering thirsty plants.
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 becoming increasingly grotty but should improve when the pavilion and toilets are re-built - pencilled in for 2020. There might be periods of time with no access to toilets after the pavilion is demolished but we really hope the Council will provide us with some toilet access.
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: 25 June 2019