18 May 2009

Children growing up today know less about where food comes from because the new generation of parents are less likely to show them how to garden, says a survey commissioned by The Children’s Society.

Almost eight in ten (79 per cent) of older parents (aged 55-64) say they have gardened with their children compared to just six in ten (62 per cent) of younger parents (aged under 35).

The finding suggests the younger generation of parents is doing less to pass on Britain’s horticultural traditions than the older generation - even though an overwhelming 92 per cent of Britain’s grown-ups believe it is important for children to understand how plants are cultivated.

These statistics come from a survey of 1,000 adults conducted by Nfp Synergy to coincide with the charity’s garden at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show. The results will fuel concerns that too many children grow up thinking vegetables come from the supermarket rather than from the ground.

They suggest one key problem is that adults, especially younger parents, are less inclined to pass on their knowledge of how to cultivate the soil than the older generation.

According to the findings, fewer younger parents also say their children are in touch with nature (57 per cent) compared to older (73 per cent). Some 53 per cent of younger parents say their children have eaten something they have grown compared to 69 per cent of older parents.

The vast majority of adults (80 per cent) believe children today will grow up knowing less about gardening than their parents.

However the survey does contain some good news.

Some 93 percent of people surveyed said they have, or used to have, a garden. Seventy-six per cent of parents say they have planted something with their children while 72 per cent say they have involved their children with gardening.

Almost two thirds of parents (63 per cent) say that their children have eaten something they have grown. Sixty-nine percent of adults say their children are concerned about the environment while some 84 per cent of people agree gardening is an important activity for parents and children to do together.

One expert urged parents to take up the trowel. Laverne Antrobus, Consultant Child and Educational Psychologist said children who are taught to garden are more caring and likely to eat a varied and healthy diet.

She said: “Creating small garden areas in school or at home encourages children to learn about caring and nurturing a plant. If the plant produces some fruit/vegetable children seem more inclined to try new things that perhaps they would not eat ordinarily. Children often show a greater degree of perseverance when given seeds and instructions for planting which does help teachers assess skills such as following instructions, development of fine motor skills, how to analyse data and work together.’’

The survey was commissioned to mark The Children’s Society’s return to the Chelsea Flower Show for the third year in a row, where it has entered a stylish and practical garden for the urban family. Designer Mark Gregory’s vision gets back-to-basics with a garden where parents can teach their children about gardening while providing fresh produce they have grown together. This small, contemporary space is ideal for growing vegetables without having to turn the back garden in to an untidy allotment.

The Children’s Society Garden is a back garden to complement last year’s gold-medal winning Front Garden. It continues the story of a family who are very aware of where their food comes from and are conscious about their environmental impact. The design shows how the modern family can grow a significant amount of vegetables in a small space at a time when the average garden size is shrinking.

When putting together his garden, Mark tried to remain true to the spirit of ‘’A Good Childhood,’’ the landmark report of The Good Childhood Inquiry commissioned by The Children’s Society. The innovative design is intended to embody some of the key things that children need to flourish. The report called for families to spend more time doing things together, for adults to pass on their learning and values to children, for children to contribute to the needs of others, while eating healthily and to be given a safe place to play.

Mark Gregory has chosen his vegetable selection to appeal to the younger families that the survey pinpointed as less likely to involve their children in gardening. By demonstrating how easy it is to grow mange tout, pak choi, cherry tomatoes and chillies (all popular with the under 55s), Mark hopes to inspire younger families to get planting and encourage the next generation of British horticulturalists.


Key facts:

  • Young people can identify 1,000 corporate logos but fewer than 10 plants or animals native to their back yards. (From World Watch Magazine, Jan/Feb, 2000)
  • There will be a rise in the total number of households and gardens albeit average garden size will continue to fall. (ROYAL HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY Trustees’ Annual Report and Consolidated Financial Statements 2007/08; Social Trends survey 2006)
  • Alan Titchmarsh says too many children don't know where vegetables come from, see an article in The Telegraph.


For images or more information about The Children’s Society Garden please contact David Hudi-Dinnage in the Media Team on 020 7841 4422, 07810 796508 or dhd@childsoc.org.uk

Notes for editors

  • NfpSynergy: the research consultancy for not-for profit organisations interviewed a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults aged over 16 in mainland Britain online between 9th to 20th March 2009. The fieldwork for nfpSynergy was carried out by Research Now. The survey, which included 661 parents, was carefully designed to provide an accurate cross section of opinion in Britain, balanced by sex, age and socio-economic status
  • 'A Good Childhood,' the landmark report of The Good Childhood Inquiry commissioned by The Children’s Society was published in February by Penguin. The book is available from bookshops or online priced £9.99.
  • Chelsea: This is The Children’s Society’s third year at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. In 2008, Mark Gregory designed The Children’s Society Garden 2008, winning a gold medal and receiving high praise for his Front Garden across the media.
  • Mark Gregory: Mark Gregory is Managing Director of Landform Consultants Limited and Director of the London College of Garden Design based in Regent’s Park, London. He has been building medal-winning gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show for 20 years.
  • The Children’s Society is a leading children’s charity committed to making childhood better for all children in the UK; www.childrenssociety.org.uk