In the first week of the new year, the children haven’t wasted any time getting The Secret Garden ready for spring and its visitors. Every year we welcome new life to the garden: last year we watched in wonder as the resident blue tits trained their chicks to pull seeds from the feeders, and we were aghast as nests of baby spiders ‘exploded’ into life between the deck rails.
The children and I learn so much from the creatures that crawl and fly by us as we play, not least our own role in supporting them as part of a healthy and diverse garden eco-system (which usually involves just leaving them well alone!). So, with a view to making The Secret Garden an even more inviting and hospitable place for our little friends, we decided to create a small pond for the frogs we know reside under the rocks, and anything else that might want to splash along with them.
The pond was carefully and joyously planned. We researched in books, watched YouTube tutorials created by children just like us, gathered the resources and divided up the tasks. What might we learn? Selection and safe use of tools, how to predict and measure space and capacity, skills of listening to and taking turns with our friends. We didn’t foresee any problems. We got this.
The plot was decided on and measured, tools were chosen, soil was dug, and rocks and pond plant were transported one by one across the garden in our little red wheelbarrows. The pond was taking shape! What’s the last thing we’ll need? Rain water! We hunted for full buckets, bowls and pots, and worked out how to transport them to the pond without losing the water. SPLOSH! And TA-DAA! Our new pond.
Proud and muddy, the children busied themselves with more pouring in the Mud Kitchen. And, as we headed in for tea, we took one least admiring look at the pond. But… hang on… it’s DRY?!?
“Look! The plant drank up all the water!” a child gasps.
“No, there’s a hole!” says another. “Can we fix it?”
I’m sure we can. And tomorrow we’ll find out how.
What might we learn? That not everything works first time and, not only is that okay, it’s often cause for a collective head-scratch and a good giggle; that there can be pleasure in perseverance. Particularly if it means we can get wet and muddy again!