Teaching children the joy of gardening can be a gift you give them that lasts a lifetime. Unfortunately, however, when many kids think of gardening they immediately associate it with long hours spent in the sun pulling weeds or other unpleasant tasks. It’s the adults in their lives opportunity, therefore, to help kids see another side of gardening; the side of gardening that involves the fun of planning and the joy of the harvest. As you do so, your children can cultivate not only a better attitude about gardening but also the following five positive benefits.
More Time Outside and Away From the TV
Summer is a wonderful time for children to relax and refresh their energy after many long months of sitting behind a desk at school. Too many children, however, think that the best way to recharge and relax is by plugging in to the closest electronic device. Television, movies, video games, and IPods all become the main focus for entertainment and just killing time. Unfortunately, children that are constantly using or engaged with technology may be more likely to be subjected to violent or inappropriate content and have less time to spend outdoors getting fresh air and exercise.
So, then, how do parents get kids away from the television or computer screens and out of doors? Sometimes the answer simply comes down to giving them another option. Instead of letting kids pick up their hand-held video game every time they get bored, provide them with a new adventure and responsibility. Kids often thrive when given the opportunity to try something new.
Time Spent Together
Gardening can also be a very social activity. Get your children outside, hand them a shovel, work on a gardening task together and you may be surprised what kinds of conversations you can have. Away from the usual distractions, gardening affords the opportunity to talk, explore, and really listen. Even if your child is initially reluctant to show any enthusiasm for the task, don’t get discouraged. With time and patience you both may find that gardening affords a perfect chance to spend time together and enjoy each other’s company.
Random green vegetables that are dropped onto your child’s plate may automatically illicit complaints. Fruits, vegetables, or herbs, however that were cultivated, watered, weeded, and harvested by your child, on the other hand, may suddenly become much more interesting and appetizing. In fact, several studies have shown that children that are involved in growing their own fruits and vegetables are much more likely to eat them and actually express a preference for these types of fresh foods.
In addition, the fresh foods that you grow yourself may actually be some of the healthiest foods you can eat. Dishes prepared using homegrown herbs or garden fresh fruits and vegetables often are packed full of vitamins and minerals and involve less artificial ingredients. Furthermore, homegrown foods often simply taste better. Teaching kids to enjoy fresh produce can help them to acquire a taste for healthier foods.
Gardening also affords numerous teaching opportunities. One of the biggest, and most difficult life skill for children to master, is the art of patience. In today’s society, many children have learned that when they are hungry all they have to do is run to the refrigerator or have their parents stop by the local fast food restaurant and dinner is served. There is immediate gratification whenever the need arises. Gardening, however, does not allow for instant gratification. It takes time, patience, and care for a seed to sprout. Plants must be watered, protected, and fed. Fruits, vegetables, and herbs must be given time to grow and ripen. Only after a great deal of attention and time can the rewards be experienced. Kids that learn to garden may actually find that with patience, the rewards are even sweeter.
A garden can also be a wonderful scientific laboratory. Kids can learn about the life cycle of plants, the chemical makeup of soil, and other exciting scientific discoveries. These learning opportunities may help to encourage more creative and inquisitive thinking. One study performed in 2005 indicated that students that were involved in gardening activities in the classroom received significantly higher scores on science achievement tests than students who did not participate in gardening experiences.
Create Lifelong Healthy Habits
Gardening is an activity that can be enjoyed for a lifetime. From the youngest child to the most elderly adults, accommodations can be made so that almost anyone can engage in gardening activities. The benefits of participating in gardening for both young and old can be significant. Gardening has been shown to be helpful for relieving stress, improving mental health, providing exercise, and even boosting brain health. With so many amazing benefits, instilling a love of gardening is a gift that adults can give to their children.
A love of gardening is often best cultivated, however, by children. A survey conducted by researchers found that children that were involved with picking fruits, vegetables, or flowers, taking care of plants or trees, or living in close proximity to a garden were much more likely to show an interest in gardening when they were older. Simple childhood memories of picking flowers, digging for worms, or planting seeds can often stick with a child and encourage them to enjoy healthy gardening activities throughout their lifetimes.
With so many benefits of gardening for children, there is no better day than today to get started. The good news is that you don’t have to have a big backyard or a lot of gardening experience to begin. Start simple with a few herbs in a pot or a patio tomato garden. Make sure, however, that you involve your children in deciding what types of plants to grow and where to plant them. This will allow them to feel invested in the project and may help them to feel more excited about your ideas. With time, you both may find that you are growing much more than just a few small plants. You may discover that you are also cultivating healthy habits to last a lifetime.