You already know (hopefully) how much gardening benefits adults–physically, emotionally, mentally, financially and socially. What’s not to like?
Now you can double your gardening pleasure by including your children. They will not only enjoy similar benefits from gardening that adults do, but there are some added bonuses particular to children.
If you include your children in your gardening, you will find that it helps them develop:
Children who garden learn how to be naturalists, which is the first step into the world of science. They learn what makes a seed grow, what makes a plant thrive, how plants are pollinated and how pollination affects food production. They learn to be good observers of the weather, climate, plant and animal behavior. Also, studies show that physical activity is linked to better academic performance, especially in boys.
Kids benefit from the physical exercise and fresh air and sunshine of gardening. As children learn to hold and plant small seeds and pull weeds, they are improving their fine motor skills. Working in the garden helps improve flexibility and coordination. The repetitive chores of raking, weeding and hoeing increase muscle strength and endurance. Better yet, science says that the microbes in the soil actually help boost a child’s immune system.
Good math skills
Gardening requires all sorts of computation: how to count and measure, how large to make each plot, how long to make each row and how closely to space seeds and plants. They’ll learn how to calculate how many plants will fit in a certain area. When the plants start growing, they’ll be tracking how much each plant is producing and how much the fruits weigh, improving their math skills along the way.
More responsible behavior
Tending their little plot of the garden gives children a sense of purpose and responsibility. If they lose plants through neglect, they learn a real-life lesson on how to be a good steward. As they learn the relationship between plants, beneficial insects and healthy soil, they become more responsive to the environment and become more caring individuals.
Better and healthier eating habits
Gardening is a great way to teach children the importance of good nutrition. Kids who garden eat a greater variety of vegetables. When it’s something that they’ve helped produce, they are more enthusiastic about eating their vegetables. Want to boost their love for fresh veggies? At the height of your summer production, do some side-by-side taste testing with food from the garden and store-bought food, comparing color, texture and flavor.
The gardening process fosters creativity. Choosing which seeds to plant, planning the garden’s layout, trying new or unusual vegetables or flowers–the entire process stimulates creativity. What happens when a tomato plant gets too tall for its cage? How do you keep pests from ruining your produce? What happens if tall plants begin to overshadow or crowd out the smaller plants? The garden offers all sorts of opportunities for creative problem solving. And once the food begins to come in, children can explore new and interesting ways to prepare the food.
Good family relationships
The time you spend together in the garden will create memories that will live long past the cold days of winter. Working together in the garden gives you time to talk with your children, resolve problems and discuss philosophy and the meaning of life. Studies show that boys, especially, communicate better when are engaged physical activity (which is why good mentors have long used activities like fishing and playing sports to help boys work through their problems.) While you and your family are tending your garden, your garden is nourishing you, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Hopefully these are compelling enough reasons to get you and your children into the garden together this year.