Green thumb or not, gardening with your children is a great way to enjoy some quality time together while doing something that’s both productive – and fun!
Not only does gardening distract kids from screen time, it actually stimulates child development in a number of ways. Whether you’re outside planting tulip bulbs or indoors harvesting a selection of herbs to season your favourite dish, sometimes a little green love goes a very long way.
Hesitant to get your hands dirty? Don’t be. Here are a handful of reasons why you and your little ones should put your gloves on and spade up:
1. Engages all the Senses
From the striking smell of garlic bulbs to the soft scent of roses in bloom, introducing your children to gardening also introduces them to a world of sensory stimulation. Let them touch rough seeds, feel different kinds of soil, pull weeds, dig in the dirt, carry the water can, and taste the fruits of their labour in the form of veggies or fresh herbs straight from the garden. Try playing a game of “I spy” with your little one as you explore what secrets lie in wait.
2. Teaches Responsibility
If you neglect it – it will wither. Tending a garden helps teach children how to take care of other living things. Give your children an easy task, such as watering certain plants on a daily or weekly basis. Let them take the initiative but complete the task together if your child is too young to do them on their own. Be sure to celebrate tiny victories as your plants or flowers start to bloom. As a side note, teaching with plants is a great way to ready kids for the responsibility of owning a pet.
3. Fine Motor Skills
As children help you plant, rake, sow and water their way to a bountiful home or outdoor garden, they are developing the same fine motor skills as are required to do activities such as turning pages, writing, buttoning up clothing, etc. Practice these skills with your child by encouraging them to handle small seeds and pick berries, push the wheelbarrow and use gardening tools, bend over and balance to avoid stomping on any newly planted seeds.
4. Promotes Patience
Nothing encourages patience like waiting for a garden to come to life. We’re all so used to instant gratification – and so are our kids – that patience doesn’t quite come as naturally as it once did. Gardening with your children is a great opportunity to remind yourself and teach the next generation that some things are worth the wait. Kick-start the gardening process with easy-to-grow herbs like chives, oregano and basil or flowers like marigolds or sunflowers and then work up to species that take a little longer to appear.
5. Encourages Healthy Eating
Researchers in California found significant improvement in nutritional knowledge and vegetable identification, when classroom learning was enhanced by gardens established at the school. Knowing where our food comes from arms us with the knowledge to make healthier choices. Start talking with your kids about healthy foods vs. unhealthy foods and then plant some of your favourites. Once your herbs or produce is ready, use them in a tasty dish to drive home the importance of eating healthy, well-balanced meals.