I believe that gardens grow better with a child's magical touch. Kids seem to have a natural affinity for the garden, and that comes as no surprise; every walk in the garden presents something new and interesting to grab a child's curiosity, whether it is a mud puddle or an unfurling flower. I would hazard to say that most people who are gardeners have fond memories of growing up in the garden; I know I do. Growing up in the garden is both fun and a great learning experience! Gardening is a fun activity for kids, and it has a wide variety of benefits - here are just a few.
[Photo by pizzawhale (Flickr)]
Playing in the Dirt is Fun!
This is probably the first and most obvious benefit of gardening for little ones. Most children are perfectly content to play in the soil, and it is easy to sneak in a lesson about digging an appropriate hole for a plant or seed as part of this play. Perhaps while digging, you will be fortunate enough to find some slimy earthworms to play with - or have your little shadow assist with watering plants and then let them play in the mud puddles! Show your gardening buddy how to make a hollyhock doll, how to make a snap dragon "eat" a piece of grass, and how to twist the flowers of an obedient plant into a fun pattern. In such a beautiful and stimulating environment, a child's imagination knows no bounds. Try planting fun theme gardens, like fairy gardens full of mini plants and fairy accessories or sensory gardens made up of plants like mint and lamb's ear.
[Photo by woodleywonderworks (Flickr)]
Gardening is Healthy
If you want to inspire a lifetime love of healthy eating, then let kids plant and care for fruits and vegetables of their own. Children take great pride in growing their own food, and even Brussels sprouts stand a chance of being relished. Some great fruits and vegetables for young gardeners to grow are strawberries, green beans, sunflowers, pumpkins, and potatoes, just to name a few; herbs are also easy to care for, and kids will love smelling their different scents. Gardening is also great exercise for the whole family and is therapeutic mentally as well. Much research has shown that gardening helps reduce stress, which makes it a wonderful hobby for kids to keep up when they grow older.
[Photo by Dylan Parker (Flickr)]
It's a Fun Way to Teach Life Lessons
Teaching a child how to be patient is generally not a fun task, but gardening can take some of the pain out of it. Plant some bean or sunflower seeds and wait for them to emerge, and then wait some more for them to put out leaves and produce healthy snacks. Kids learn responsibility through the natural consequences of how good care of the garden produces beautiful, healthy plants and how poor care results in sickly and dying plants that produce nothing. Teach your child that different flowers and vegetables need different kinds of care, much like different people. Share the abundance of fruits, flowers, and vegetables that you grow with the neighbors and let your child experience the joy of giving to others.
[Photo by Lauren Hammond (Flickr)]
Growing Plants Teaches Kids About Science
Growing a garden teaches so many science lessons that it is impossible to name them all, and it is likely to inspire conversations between you and your little one about anything under the sun. The most obvious lesson for kids to learn is about plant and insect life cycles; sure, kids can learn this in a book, but actually experiencing it through all of the senses really makes the information sink in, especially for kinesthetic learners and those with special needs. Teach your child to appreciate pollinators and earthworms for the work that they do in the garden, and teach them about responsible gardening practices that are earth-friendly like composting and companion planting. Explain why weeding is important as you pull the weeds and how deadheading and pinching back are good for flowers; every action in gardening is a teachable moment.
[Photo by Dyogi (Flickr)]
You Are Building Good Memories
When you garden with a child, you build memories that will last a lifetime. To this day, some of my favorite and most vivid memories are of gardening with my grandparents, and I hope to give my own children and grandchildren the same sweet gardening memories someday. Little ones will remember the time you spent showing them how to care for plants, but most of all, they will remember the time and attention you spent caring for them. When you garden with a child, you are sowing and nurturing seeds of responsibility, respect, knowledge, and love along with the seeds of flowers and vegetables.