How gardening nurtures children
Let’s look at how and why gardening helps children to get an appreciation for nature at the earliest possible age.
WHAT YOUR CHILD CAN LEARN
Gardening gives everybody joy but is particularly important for children. They will have fun doing it and develop lots of important new skills, in a way that feels playful. Some of these are:
- Responsibility – they will be tasked with growing and tending to plants.
- Consequences – gardening is a great way to learn about consequences, such as plants dying without water or weeds taking nourishment away from plants.
- Confidence – keeping their plant healthy from seed to flower or eating any food they produce is great for their confidence levels.
- Bonding with nature – gardening is a great opportunity to connect with the outdoors in a safe way.
- Logic and exploration – gardening involves understanding some basic science to do with plants, animals, weather, the environment, nutrition and living things.
- Staying active – all while spending time at something they enjoy.
- Working together – this could include teamwork and sharing time and resources.
- Innovation – the ups and downs of maintaining plants or food will require some creative problem solving along the way.
- Nutrition – gardening can be a chance to understand where food comes from.
GETTING YOUR CHILD STARTED
Here is some advice on sparking your child’s interest in growing a garden. They include:
- Keep things simple.
- Allow each child to have their own ‘patch’ of the garden. This can simply be a big container or some pots on the balcony.
- If your child is old enough, get them involved in planning and designing the garden.
- Make sure to have child-friendly, light, big handled tools and equipment.
- Pick interesting plants to grow like sunflowers, potatoes and strawberries.
- Grow beans or sweet peas using a wall trellis.
- Select flowers that encourage butterflies and other interesting insects to make an appearance.
- Create a little scarecrow, even if it is inside a plant pot.
- Water features, birdbaths and sundials can be quirky additions to enjoy.
- Bring your children to public gardens, children’s farms or public gardens to gather inspiration.
KEEPING KIDS SAFE
These tips will help make sure your child stays safe while gardening:
- Use child-friendly tools.
- Put chemicals and fertiliser out of reach.
- Garden organically where possible.
- Organise safe storage for all equipment.
- Make sure gates are secure where applicable.
- Use umbrellas or sun hats when your child is outside.
- Wear sunscreen, suitable clothing and good shoes.
- Do not leave very young children and toddlers near buckets of water.
Which plants should you choose?
There are three things to bear in mind when selecting plants to grow with your children. Firstly, big, eye-catching, bright flowers are good. Secondly, children will feel rewarded by vegetables and fruits that grow quickly. Lastly, think about planting specifically to engage their sensory system. Good plants for this are ones that have interesting textures. Suggestions include:
- For touch – wooly lamb’s ear, succulents, reeds, snapdragons.
- For taste – herbs, strawberries, blackberries, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes.
- For smell – jasmine, lilies, lavender, mint, lemon balm.
- For colour – tulips, poinsettias, roses, sunflowers.
- For noise – bamboo and grasses.
- Watering the garden.
- Digging, picking flowers, planting vegetables, fruits and flowers at the right times: picking vegetables and fruits when they are ready to harvest. Mulching, weeding, deadheading flowers. Preparing the soil with organic fertiliser. Replanting and repotting.
FUN FOR ALL AGES
Gardening is good for children at every stage. However, there will be a difference in expectations between very young children and older ones. You will need to be watchful of younger children at all times. Good activities for them would be things like watering plants, helping to harvest fruits and vegetables, planting seeds and ‘digging’. Older children are better able for tasks like proper digging, repotting, mulching and pruning.
Choose activities according to your child’s age. Some ideas are:
- Gardening is fun and good for children’s health and wellbeing.
- Children develop new skills and learn about science and nature by engaging with the garden.
- There are plenty of activities for children to take part in like planting, mulching, weeding and watering.
- Make sure that your garden is a child friendly environment with the right tools, storage and boundaries for children.
- Using these ideas, you should have everything you need to get started in the garden with your child and reap the benefits it can give.