Gardening is a delightful activity for children. For some, it can even develop into a much-loved hobby in years to come. Introducing children to the garden is jam-packed with benefits; physical, mental and educational. They don’t just receive the benefits of fresh air and sunshine, they learn very important lessons about life and nature. In turn, they develop a true sense of accomplishment, improving their self-esteem as they see the wonderful results of their efforts.
Gardens are great environments for kids because they are curious by nature – all children love to explore and discover. As gardens are ever-changing, they provide ongoing fascination and stimulation for the child.
In addition, kids learn by doing, not just listening, and by participating in gardening activities they obtain a first-hand understanding of life cycles, plants, insects, soil and all things natural. As an added bonus – many young ones simply love playing in the dirt!
Children learn so much from gardening, such as:
• Developing creativity
• Exercising discipline and commitment
• Growing and harvesting food
• Respecting nature
• Responsibility – learning that they must care for the plant so that it thrives and does not die.
• Understanding cause and effect – good nurturing gives good results, neglect gives poor results.
Experiencing life cycles
Many children enjoy the connection and satisfaction that comes with working in the garden. By nurturing something over time, they also learn patience and respect for nature, as they observe the life-cycle first-hand, from tiny shoots to full bloom, re-seeding and then finally dying.
It can be incredibly inspiring and satisfying for a child to realise their newfound ability to nurture a plant, watch it grow and see its beauty– sometimes even producing fruit or fragrant flowers. As a result, they feel a sense of pride in the achievement, and this helps develop self-confidence.
Magic in the garden…
There is also a magical quality about gardening. There’s something quite special about exploring the garden early in the morning: observing tiny new seedlings appearing through soil, baby shoots emerging out of branches or beautiful buds just moments away from flowering. It gives a great sense of hope, and a reminder that nothing is static; everything changes. It reinforces the vital life lesson that when anything is given a bit of loving care and attention, beautiful results are possible. This knowledge transcends just the garden and gives the child a greater sense of hope. With patience and commitment many things can grow and beautiful things can bloom.
Tips for Involving Children with Gardening
With so many benefits apparent for children learning to garden, let’s look at ways of developing little green thumbs to maximise their enjoyment.
Give them their own plot
Make sure the child has their own little piece of land, whether it’s their own pot, a raised garden bed or a small staked out piece of land. Make it easy to access and in a pleasant location in the yard.
Supply them with proper tools
Little plastic toys from toy shops can be frustrating or even downright useless. Where possible, seek proper gardening tools for children or adapt adult tools by chopping down handle sizes, or possibly using kitchen utensils. By using more “real” tools, the child will feel that their work is being acknowledged and taken seriously.
Keep them involved throughout the whole process
A child will learn faster and more willingly if they understand the process they are involved in. Explaining each step to them in detail will help them to feel more connected to the activity. Make sure they are the ones that plant the seeds, water the plants and do the harvesting. Constant involvement will heighten their appreciation of the whole process and again help with developing a sense of achievement and self-esteem.
Quietly give a helping hand
Depending on the child’s age, they can’t be expected to do every task of the gardening. There’s no harm in jumping in there and quietly doing the odd task yourself, whether it’s doing a bit of extra watering, removing some offending bugs or covering a plant in a storm; the child doesn’t have to know about all of these things. The main objective is that they have ownership of the major tasks and the end results.
Show off their achievements
Acknowledging the clever work a child has done in the garden is important too. This will deepen their sense of pride in their achievement, which is likely to encourage them further. When grandparents or friends come over, show the visitors their accomplishments, help pick flowers, or eat fresh garden fruits and vegetables. There’s nothing wrong with some generous praise, especially for an activity that benefits the child, and others, in so many ways.
Sage Institute of Child Care – it’s more than a job, it’s a rewarding career.
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