Sometimes with kids you can find yourself just doing everything yourself. It’s quicker, easier, more efficient, and you know it’ll be done properly the first time. You’ve been there, right?
Well, gardening is one realm of household tasks that I’m going to argue should include your kids as much as possible.
There are so many benefits of gardening for children that I’m going to list some of them for you and I’m pretty sure you’ll be sold before the end!
If you’re already sold and looking for ways to include your children in the garden, I’ve got some pointers for that below too.
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- What are the Benefits of Gardening For Children?
- Mental Health
- Sensory Play and Exploration
- Clocks Up More Outside Hours
- Encourages More Adventurous Eating
- Bonding Time
- Home Education
- Fine-tunes Motor Skills
- Teaches Responsibility and Patience
- Allows for Creativity and Problem Solving
- Helps Children to Grow up With an Environmentally Friendly Mindset
- Reduce Food Waste
- Ideas for Getting Kids Involved in the Garden
What are the Benefits of Gardening For Children?
Most of us are familiar with the benefits of time in nature for our mental health. They range from lowered stress levels, increased attention spans to better mood and ability to cooperate. These benefits are mostly touted with regard to adults but of course, they are just as, if not more, relevant for children.
Gardening health benefits are the same as, if not more extensive than, simply spending time in nature. Gardening comes with a sense of accomplishment, reward, and self-sufficiency, as well as a sense of guardianship over a small patch of earth.
These all result in a sense of connectivity and wellbeing that is hard to emulate. In fact, populations of the world that have the highest number of people living past 100 years credit this longevity in part to gardening.
Sensory Play and Exploration
Children need to explore with their senses. Squelching wet mud through their hands, feeling the texture of grass on their feet, smelling different outside smells, and listening to the birds. It all adds up to valuable brain stimulation and development.
Gardening allows for so much sensory exploration that you can really capitalize on the most mundane tasks by seeing them through your child’s eyes and helping them to reap all the sensory experiences possible.
Clocks Up More Outside Hours
Did you know that the average American child spends a mere 4-7 minutes outside every day when that number should really be nearer 3 hours for optimal health and development?
3 hours is a lot to aim for, but challenges like the #1000hoursoutside challenge are making parents more aware of how imperative it is that they get their kids outdoors and that reaching numbers like this is actually possible.
Much of the benefits of having a garden actually stem from just being outside in a more natural environment than your screen-filled lounge. Vitamin D, healthy soil microbes, fresh air, more opportunities for sensory play, and overall, far more developmental benefits than can be achieved indoors are just some of the bonuses of gardening with kids.
Encourages More Adventurous Eating
When children are involved in growing their own food, they are much more likely to eat a wider variety of foods.
Children are more likely to eat the things they have grown as they have been a part of the process, watched and nurtured the growth themselves, and are naturally curious.
Furthermore, often feeding children has an element of stress associated with it. Toddlers can be notoriously fussy and mealtimes can end up being more about the number of mouthfuls that make it to the belly than exploring different tastes and textures.
Sampling homegrown produce takes away that stress element and makes eating different things fun and exciting.
In today’s busy world, spending time in the garden with your child can be a great way to slow down and bond.
Of course, the slowing down part is essential here – I’m sure you already know that everything takes much longer with children and gardening tasks are no exception. So if you go into it prepared for a 10 minute job to take an hour then you can view that hour as quality bonding time.
Kids are learning all of the time. It’s all too easy to get trapped in the ‘school is where you learn’ mindset. But in reality, children don’t need us to help them learn, their natural curiosity and desire to learn will mean that they continue to learn through any experience, and gardening is no exception.
The potential for growing vegetables and plants to teach children about science, math, the natural world, nutrition, and many more subjects are endless.
And this isn’t even including the all-important knowledge of where your food comes from and how to grow it for yourself – a skill that with stay with your children for the rest of their lives.
Fine-tunes Motor Skills
Developing a wide range of motor skills and coordination is essential for healthy child development but also results in a more confident and independent child.
And this isn’t just for toddlers. While toddlers will benefit the most from wielding a shovel and working on their pincer grip when handling delicate seedlings and tiny seeds, older children will also benefit from using their bodies in different ways, developing strength and even more coordination.
Teaches Responsibility and Patience
Plants and vegetables need care and attention in order to thrive, but it also takes time for them to grow, teaching valuable lessons such as responsibility and patience in a world that is so often more about instant gratification.
Appreciating the time and work that it takes for food to grow is something that older children will come to appreciate which helps with taking things like access to fresh food for granted – something that most of us living in developed countries probably do.
Not taking food for granted also results in less food waste, saving money, and the environment – triple win!
Allows for Creativity and Problem Solving
Nothing is straightforward when it comes to growing vegetables. Whether it’s figuring out how to keep the slugs away to whipping up a quick protective cloche when a storm is predicted, there is a multitude of ways in which gardening can encourage creative thinking and problem-solving.
For younger children, more simple tasks such as weeding and harvesting can come with their own little challenges that will spark many a creative thought in the young brain.
Helps Children to Grow up With an Environmentally Friendly Mindset
Raising children with an environmentally friendly mindset is arguably one of the most valuable things you can do as a parent.
As resources become scarce, pollution becomes a worldwide problem, and climate change takes hold, living sustainably is more important than ever and it’s the younger generations who recognize that their future is dependent on such sustainability.
Growing vegetables and awareness for environmentally friendly food production is a major part of this.
Reduce Food Waste
If children know where their food has come from and appreciate the work that went into growing it, it follows that they will grow into more conscientious people who will be less likely to waste food.
The FDA estimates that food waste accounts for an incredible 30-40 percent of all food produced. Cutting down on food waste is thought to be one of the most important steps we can take to combat climate change.
Ideas for Getting Kids Involved in the Garden
These are just a few quick ideas, the sky is really your limit when it comes to finding ways to get your young ones into gardening.
But here are a few to get you started anyway:
- Create a themed garden bed. Whether it’s color, meal (think pizza vegetables), things that bees like… the list is endless.
- Create a garden bed that your child is completely in charge of. This is more suitable for older children of course, but giving children complete autonomy and independence promotes learning and enthusiasm like almost nothing else.
- Get the kids to harvest what they want to eat that day for lunch or dinner. They’re more likely to want to be involved in the food preparation of that meal and more likely to eat the end result!
- Let them get messy. Children are surrounded by the word ‘no’, and ironically, the more we stop children from doing things simply because they are inconvenient to us (like getting dirty), the more likely they are to become frustrated and rebellious.
- In saying this… while the mess is good, staying protected is also good. Gardening can come with hazards like sharp thistles, or the weather could just be wet and cold! Providing your child with their own child-sized equipment such as a small shovel and gardening gloves will definitely boost the enthusiasm level. [Looking for some new gloves for yourself? We’ve got all the best options right here.
- Start a compost. It doesn’t need to be big, but having your child in charge of emptying food scraps from the kitchen compost bin into the compost heap could turn a chore into an educational responsibility if they are involved in the whole process.
- Grow some veggies indoors in winter. Even when the garden becomes an unfriendly place in the colder months, growing some vegetables inside can keep the kids interested and ready to jump straight into it when spring arrives. If you’re not sure which vegetables can be grown inside, read this quick guide.
New to gardening? Have a read of our intro to yard tools before you get started and figure out what you really need.
As you can see, the benefits of gardening with children are endless.
From brain development and mental health to education and creative thinking, only good things can come from sharing the gardening with our children!
Do you include your children in your gardening tasks?