Every child needs a garden, no matter the size.
Getting kids outdoors to have fun doing activities in nature has many benefits.
Here are seven reasons that Random Harvest Indigenous Plant Nursery believes gardening is good for children.
1. Being in Nature is good for Children
Richard Louv calls it the vitamin N (for Nature) requirement. Children need Nature – it’s been proven over and over again that kids who are exposed to nature regularly are happier, learn more effectively and cope better with stress than those that are not1.
Gardens provide the perfect environment for nature-based weekend and school holiday activities.
I will always remember the barometer of fun my friend as a Mum of young kids used. She knew that if she couldn’t see to the bottom of the bathwater and it left a dirty brown ring around the bath, her kids would go to bed tired and happy. The result of another great day out in the garden.
2. A sense of purpose ... and patience
In a world of instant gratification where technology dictates that life generally happens at the push of a button, we can lose our sense of purpose. When planting a garden with children, placing seed or seedlings in the ground, tending them and watching them grow takes a skill we have all but forgotten – patience. Gardening also takes responsibility, as young plants will surely die if not watered and cared for.
To minimise disappointment it is important to keep it simple. Choose plants that are easy to grow, are rewarding and make sure to read growing instructions.
3. Face-to-Face Connecting between Parent and Child
In many ways children are just like plants. A little loving attention is like life giving water and compost that makes them flourish.
For those that are parenting on the run, gardening is a great way to put away the devices and re-connect. For kids that find confiding in their parents difficult, being outdoors in the garden and working alongside them can often bring you into their circle of trust.
4. Discovering a sense of wonder in a world of cheap thrills
Sharon Lovejoy says it perfectly in her book “Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots”…”All knowledge is rooted in wonder, and what better place to cultivate wonder than in our own gardens?”2
Moments of wonder as they discover what shares their planted space are multiplied when indigenous plants are included in the plant mix. The creatures that use our local plants to feed, take refuge and often raise their young, have fascinating lives that can make any science fiction thriller or action game look mind-numbingly boring!
5. Learning about Life
Bee stings and insect bites, thorns, falling out of tree-houses or off swings, allergies and a whole host of other things seem to induce many parents to keep their children occupied anywhere other than in the garden. Very often it is just a crazy busy schedule that leaves little time for children to get good clean dirt under their young fingernails.
But the truth is that the garden teaches our young children many sound lessons in life. Bumps, scrapes and an insect warning or two are part of experiencing nature. So often we (myself included) shield our children from small knocks at the expense of them learning the bigger lessons and skills nature has to offer. These are lessons we cannot learn by living vicariously through our digital devices.
We can learn how to do it differently next time, through disappointment and failure. But keep this to a minimum by choosing plants wisely, doing your research and again, keeping it simple. Remember too, that your messy part of the garden might be their Terabithia.
6. Promotes active and healthy living
Getting children off the couch and into the garden can only be good for them. My physiotherapist tells me time and again…our bodies are built for movement. We need to move to keep healthy. The health benefits of gardening are so widely accepted that there are Horticultural Therapy Programmes.
7. Stimulating a Growing Mind
The garden is an outdoor classroom extraordinaire. While your child explores the workings of nature in your garden, suddenly learning becomes a multisensory experience. Research has shown time and again that for many children, learning in a more experiential environment is more effective than classroom learning. Maths, science, biology and many other subjects can all be enhanced by spending time learning outdoors.
Sometimes children are having so much fun that they don't even realise that they are learning. From Building a Scarecrow, to Making a Beastie Box or tending plants, every garden activity holds great potential to learn in many disciplines.
As a nursery that is dedicated to gardening with indigenous plants, we recommend that all your plant choices be either indigenous plants or food plants.
So perhaps now is a great time, whether you are a parent, grandparent or caregiver, to drop everything and go gardening with your child. If you find you need help with where to start then pay us a visit for some inspiration and advice.
Quotes from these references:
1. Louv, Richard. Last Child in the Woods, 2008. New York, Workman Publishing
2. Lovejoy, Sharon. Roots Shoots Buckets & Boots, 1999. New York, Workman Publishing
I am a biology teacher for the junior grades and always try to incorporate nature into my class (I have a lot of plants 😊). When my son was old enough to carry heavier items and walk we got him to help us water the garden, do some weeding with mommy and daddy and even help plant some plants. He helped we plant a bolsanthus tree for his dad for fathers day. So I love the way you say it promotes active and healthy living. My son was the first to spot when worms had infested my clivias. He was even willing to hold one of the worms as i was removing them.
As a teacher I have seen over and over again how children relax and grow emotionally stronger when given the opportunity to have real life experiences in the garden, from planting to just playing. Reason 4 (closely connected with reason 7!) must be my all time favourite. Have you ever seen the face of a child watching a bee walking on their hand, feeling the tickle and then realising that they were not going to be hurt? Priceless!
Such a lovely and informative article! Thank you so much Heather!
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