From what I can tell, most children seem to take to their parents' hobbies and enthusiasms like ducks to water. What happens when they hit adolesence, I'm not sure but will find out before long. It'll probably involve a lot of grunting and refusal to go anywhere near the allotment.
I've found that our children are enthusiastic gardeners. Of course, a few things have helped and because they seem so obvious I feel a bit silly stating them out loud. As feeling silly is a regular occurance, I'll plough on.
- Space of their own: When I very kindly donated one whole bed (oh, the generosity) to be divided between our then three children, I did wince a bit. A whole bed! But it has been worth every second of weeding for them that I've had to do. Some of their areas are better than others, but each is proud and not a little possessive of their own tiny space (you should see the fight for the fattest worms...).
- Lower your expectations: The only requirement I've had for the children is that they shouldn't whinge to go home ten minutes after arriving. If they don't fancy doing any "work" on their patch - fine. Earwig hospitals, creating a digging hole and playing in the nearby woods have all taken precedence many times. One of the points of a family allotment, for me, is that they're not sat in front of a screen.
- Tools: Having child-sized tools makes all the difference. Having one each helps enormously (although they still like using mine). Gardening gloves are handy too, especially if you have biting red ants like we have been blessed with.
- Food and being prepared: It helps, I find, if you let them stuff their pockets with sweets/chocolate before you set off. Not particularly healthy I know, but offset by all that fresh air perhaps. Also helps to avoid any "I'm hungry, can we go now?" whingeing. Hot chocolate on chilly days and bottled water on hot ones is essential as is coats/welly boots/sunhats/suncream.
- Little ones: Our two toddlers love the allotment. One is happy to water using a child-sized can while the other loves pushing his plastic lorry through the mud. Both were bought especially with the allotment in mind and live in our shared shed on site.
- A couple of rules: It helps, I think, not to be too precious but there are a couple of Important Rules that must be obeyed. No walking on others' plots and no running on ours. The carpeted paths aren't terribly well laid and sticks are pointy. Nuff said.
- Put your hands in your pocket: We have found that it's helped to spend a bit of cash to encourage the enjoyment. They fancy that pineapple mint plant for their patch that they've spied on a garden centre trip? Fine. They need that strip of broccoli plants? Wonderful. Car boot sales and plant stalls at fetes are good places to pick up cheap plants for them and you.
- Child-friendly plants: I can't see my children ever eating radishes, even if they have grown them themselves but plants they do find interesting are sunflowers, herbs (for the scent) and strawberries. They generally like growing anything, as long as it's not weeds, knowing that us adults will enjoy their produce even if they won't. One of them will now eat a bit of salad so we've planted lettuce seeds in the shape of her initial.