Why You Should Encourage Kids to Get Gardening

by - Wednesday, May 30, 2018


We all love to be able to have a beautiful garden to relax and enjoy, somewhere to work in the summer if you work from home, somewhere to enjoy late evenings with some iced lemonade, somewhere for the kids to play in. Having a well-kept garden is a basic of property investment too. The health benefits of gardening for grown-ups are pretty well documented. Every spring countless magazines post about how it is great for your heart keeps you active and can help with mental health issues too. All of those things are indeed true, but what about all the perks of children gardening? Rather than you taking care of the garden, and then the kids enjoy, what about changing things up a bit? What about getting your children involved in the gardening too. When you start gardening, it’s easy to plant some wildflowers and forget about the rest. However, ahead of springtime head out with the kids and plant some fruits and veggies.

By growing food at home, they can learn about the whole process involved in dishes they might otherwise take for granted. You can produce a range of tasty treats, and the kids are way more likely to try them since the veggies ‘belong’ to them. Some great ones to try are: strawberries, peppers, cucumbers, gooseberrie rsaspberries, potatoes, onions and many more. When kids learn how much works goes in to the process by farmers, florists and nature to create what they see around them and what they eat that can offer inspiration for more learning. In a tech-driven world, anything that encourages kids to be outside unprompted is excellent.

Gardening fosters a valuable life lesson – patience. Once that seed is planted, both metaphorically and in actuality, you have to wait. There is much to be said for the exciting space between planting a seed and watching the first shoots appear. Equally, when they are playing in the garden and accidentally tread on some shoots or maim some tulips. The lesson there was to be careful, tread lightly, and be mindful. Sometimes when they plant seeds, they might not grow, or perhaps they grow but because the upkeep of care wasn’t undertaken it didn’t work out. This teaches them responsibility- even at a really early age.

Forest school, outdoor learning for home educating families and even gardening classes for kids have been booming in the last few years. Why? Well, because when teachers have been teaching hands-on gardening activities, learning about insects, flowers, and even seasons – they see a dramatic increase in confidence. Self-esteem improved and there are also behavioural improvements. You might say a change in the learning environment made a difference in the children happen or perhaps you might say that the fresh air, tweeting birds and greenness of it all taps into something pretty special.

Getting brainy. Kids by nature are massively inquisitive, throw in a gardening space and some imagination and who knows where you are going to end up. The smell of different flowers, the vibrancy of blossoms, the greenness of the grass, rock garden formations, trees and food patches. All of those add to their ever-expanding knowledge. The garden doesn’t even have to be a perfectly manicured lawn, some overgrowth, some muddy spots, shady bits, sun traps and even weeds. They all contribute.Interestingly the Royal Horticultural Society found that time spent in the garden improves children's problem-solving and critical thinking. But how? Well, due to the changeable nature of gardening – seasons and weather – plants dying, slow growth, different growing conditions, and foods, children are forced to think on their feet. What works for a tomato plant, won’t work for a green onion. If their job every day is to water a select set of plants, but one day it has been raining, although you might assume it to be basic understanding, they’ll need to work out why and what might happen if they were to water and already well-watered plant.

Fine motor skills can be put to the test and improved upon without much effort. Pinching just the right amount of seeds from the packets, sprinkling them all over the soil. Gently pressing them down, writing on the plant tags, taking cuttings, deadheading old perennials, scooping up dirty with their pint-sized spades – all great fun. It also makes basic science principles a snip. Botany, biology and some chemistry. Kids can begin to talk about what is going to happen once the seed is planted, meaning they are starting to make their own hypothesis, and they’ll be monitoring the progress too. The bigger the kid, the more likely you’ll be talking about photosynthesis, how plants eat, pollination, male and female parts of the plants, timescales and why it’s better to plant at certain times of the year. It will support their school learning, and in fact, might even give them a bit of a head start.

You can extend what gardening entails. By looking at how certain insects like butterflies and bees impact and improve the things you are growing. Making insect houses, tracking how many bees visit and how many flowers they travel too. As mentioned above the sense of responsibility – having something to look after, not a serious as a puppy or a fish, but something that needs care and attention nonetheless. When you are working as a group, either in a communal garden or in your own backyard as a family, everyone joins in and gets their job done. The motivation to ensure that all the jobs are done to their best and that everyone can enjoy the final products gives them great motivation.

It is great for bonding. Not all relationships are easy, sometimes something as simple as planting seeds can give you time to work through things with your little ones. Sometimes the simple act of growing some sunflowers super tall can give you both something to be proud of and a talking point. You can get moving pretty easily in the garden without overexerting yourself or your children. Children can pop some gloves on and start pulling up stinging nettles, move rocks around, clear up edges and help with potting up too. Digging and turning over soil, carrying buckets of water around, reaching up to sniff their flowers – all work muscles without it being an obvious form of activity.

A surprising one might be a personal routine. Although your kids likely get up every day for school and have their day pretty much mapped out, the ‘spare’ time as home can sometimes just lose all structure. If they have set times of day to water the plants, it will help them learn to tell the time if they are young and help them with timekeeping if they are a bit older. If you don’t already have one, think about getting a composter. Not only is it going to be great for your garden once it has finished working its magic. But, they are great at teaching kids about food waste, decomposition and when it comes time to use the compost, it will be mind-boggling to explain that what they’re using was once newspaper and those left-over veggies from last year. There is an art to composting so you’ll have to read up first.

Working with kids in the garden can bring everyone involved a lot of joy. It is a great and continual learning experience, not only that but you’re likely to get some delicious fruits for all your hard work too!

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