With spring in the air, Kim Wilde is happy to be back in the garden - and she's making sure the whole family's involved.
Spring is such an exciting and busy time for gardeners, as bulbs and spring blossom emerge in a burst of colour and fragrance and longer, warmer days lure us outside to plant, prune and play. This spring, I have a book published called Gardening with Children. It took me a year to write, and is based on my experiences of gardening with my own little helpers, Harry and Rose (pictured right). It seems to me we live in an age when it's becoming increasingly difficult to spend any quality time at all with our kids. When they're not at school or doing homework, there's their social calendar - after-school clubs, hours spent on games consoles - and let's not forget our own busy lives as well.
Gardening projects both great and small are an ideal way of reclaiming time with our children - getting to know them, learning and having fun. So get out there this Easter holiday; start planting with the kids and work off some of those Easter eggs.
At this time of year, the tulip and daffodil bulbs I planted in containers last autumn decorate the patio, while the children and I make miniature gardens in seed trays for their school's annual competition. We weave soft new growth from shrubs in the garden to make miniature hurdle fencing, and use up-turned sea shells as water features.
We also sow sunflower seeds in small pots of compost but we protect them from frosts until later in May, when we plant the seedlings outside. You can get child-friendly seed packets at most good garden centres, so they'll feel they have something all of their own.
Talking of quality time, we adults need to requisition some time just for ourselves, whether that's a weekend away or simply a walk to the local pub for a drink (sometimes followed by an Indian, in my case). If you don't get out of the house, the washing machine will always need filling or emptying, the children's toys collecting from everywhere and something will need doing in the kitchen. Like so many people's, family life for us constitutes a real balancing act. And sometimes we get it right, sometimes we don't. However, with a bit of effort and planning come big rewards. God bless the internet: recently Hal and I booked a break in Paris and spent two days wandering the streets, shopping and getting lost in the Louvre. Simple pleasures like sitting in a caf頡nd watching the world go by while enjoying delicious French wine and cheese are not to be missed. More importantly, time to hold hands with the one you love and laugh together (with no distractions) is essential in promoting a healthy relationship, but how often do we take these things for granted? The saying goes that a family who plays together, stays together; well, that includes grown-ups, too!
Hal and I both have happy memories of our respective parents enjoying each others' company throughout our childhood, and the security and commitment that came from watching them enjoy simple hugs and chats has stayed with us.
In praise of creativity
Music continues to play an important role in our family which isn't surprising as both Hal and I have music in our veins. Last year, we organised a wonderful music concert together with the pupils and teachers of our children's school - a great success - and we'll be doing the same this year. Some children played Robbie Williams' songs on the piano, while others sang songs from West End shows or rocked 'n' rolled with a very loud Metallica set - awesome!
Creative activities, whether making music, gardening or cooking, are essential for both adults and children, forming the foundation of emotional and intellectual growth in children, and playing a rewarding stressbusting role for busy adults. Whether I'm writing books or magazine columns, singing, or tending to the garden, I speak from personal experience when I say you'll feel better for it.
Try this: Ginkgo biloba
With so much to remember, a ginkgo biloba supplement is not a bad idea - you can take it in capsule or liquid extract form. Whether it's just me or my plate-spinning lifestyle, things seem to slip out of my head like an egg from a frying pan these days and I'll certainly be getting dosed up on the stuff.
This herb, which comes from a native Chinese tree, has been used for hundreds of years to enhance blood flow to various parts of the body, most notably the brain (hence its role in improving memory and concentration). You often see the tree planted in urban places, including cities in the UK, as it has an upright habit and is very tolerant of pollution (in fact, it very kindly absorbs it for us).
It is the oldest tree species to survive on earth, dating back to over 200 million years ago, so it must have a few good tricks up its sleeve.