HTA director general David Gwyther said: "Pester power is not to be underestimated, and by developing stronger links with schools, garden centres are investing in the gardeners of the future and driving footfall as children return with family members to follow up activities that they have done at school.
"Children undoubtedly have a better knowledge of environmental issues than their parents do through topics covered in school.
"Providing events and activities for children is a must for centres that want to attract family groups, especially in the current economic climate where people will be looking for good value 'experiences' to keep them entertained."
In studies into the environmental attitudes of gardeners for the HTA by Ipsos Mori last year, children came up as a recurring theme.
HTA communications director Gill Ormrod said: "This is a great opportunity for retailers to not only develop links with schools but also to help drive parents into centres."
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EXAMPLES OF CHILD-FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES
- Garden & Leisure Group runs a series of KidsClub activities involving planting, environmental issues, cooking and making things.
- Grosvenor Garden Centre runs plant workshops in school holidays.
- Cleeve Nursery near Bristol and Scotsdales Garden Centre in Cambridge have established junior gardening clubs.
- Langlands Garden Centre near York has a dedicated pottery-painting area within the plant area.
- St Peters Garden Centre in Worcester has regular visits from an owl-rescue centre, displays of exotic mini beasts and a falconry display.
- Fermoy's Garden Centre & Farm Shop is inviting local schools to produce small display gardens on its site in Devon.
- Joseph Rochfords has sponsored a local garden designer who is setting up an after-school gardening club scheme.
- Stewarts Garden Centres in Dorset sponsors a young local allotment grower by providing his seeds for the season.
- Charlton Park Garden Centre in Wantage, Oxfordshire, partnered with its local primary school to run in-school sessions on potato planting.
- For more information, see www.rhs.org.uk/schoolgardening; www.potatoesforschools.org.uk; and www.edibleplaygrounds.co.uk