Combatting the age of the screen with time in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens

GETTING GRUBBY: Rhys Bell, 4 plants a herb seedling in a handmade newspaper pot as part of the BotaniKIDS junior gardening and nature program. The group will teach other children at the Begonia Festival. Picture: Rochelle Kirkham
GETTING GRUBBY: Rhys Bell, 4 plants a herb seedling in a handmade newspaper pot as part of the BotaniKIDS junior gardening and nature program. The group will teach other children at the Begonia Festival. Picture: Rochelle Kirkham

Four-year-old Rhys Bell holds out his hands which are grubby with fresh soil. He is planting a herb seedling into a handmade newspaper pot at the Ballarat Botanical Gardens.

Visitors to the Begonia Festival will have the chance to take home their own herb seedling and handmade pail with the help of BotaniKIDS over the long weekend. 

William Smith, 2 and his mum Emily Smith. Picture: Rochelle Kirkham

William Smith, 2 and his mum Emily Smith. Picture: Rochelle Kirkham

The children’s nature group for zero to five-year-olds run by Friends of Ballarat Botanical Gardens will be set up at the Budding Gardeners Tent throughout the festival, to encourage young children to get outdoors and grubby in the garden. 

BotaniKIDS coordinator Julie Bradbury said it was devastating children generally only spent a small amount of time outdoors. 

“One of the big things that research tells us is that this age group are only spending 10 per cent of their time outside and 90 per cent of their time inside,” she said. 

“When I was a kid it was the other way around.” 

Mollie Arnts, 3. Picture: Rochelle Kirkham

Mollie Arnts, 3. Picture: Rochelle Kirkham

The BotaniKIDS attracts around 50 children to sessions which run around once a month.

“They’re the custodians of gardening in the future, so we make sure we do a lot of natural materials, hands on, we always plant something every session we do,” Ms Bradbury said.

“We usually go for a beautiful nature walk around the gardens. It is lovely when we do it because there is a big crocodile line of kiddies in high vis vests.”

Julie Bradby, Friends of the Botanical Gardens life member and BotaniKIDS coordinator helps William Smith, 2 plant herbs. Picture: Rochelle Kirkham

Julie Bradby, Friends of the Botanical Gardens life member and BotaniKIDS coordinator helps William Smith, 2 plant herbs. Picture: Rochelle Kirkham

City of Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh said the BotaniKIDS program reflected the overarching idea of the Begonia Festival. 

“Begonia Festival for anyone who goes along really is about encouraging people to enjoy their gardens and surrounds,” she said. 

“We know that healthy gardens and healthy people make our community much stronger and much happier.”

Mollie Arnts, 3 and Fiona Walsh, BotaniKIDS volunteer. Picture: Rochelle Kirkham

Mollie Arnts, 3 and Fiona Walsh, BotaniKIDS volunteer. Picture: Rochelle Kirkham

Visit http://www.ballaratbegoniafestival.com/ for details of the festival which runs from March 10 to March 12 from 10am to 5pm. 

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