After having our seed planting station at Living Smart Festival and Newcastle Vegan Market, we thought we should share a little more about the benefits of gardening for children. If you weren’t at these events, we had a seed planting station using biodegradable pots, for kids to plant their own seeds with soil (either tomato or carrot) to take home and grow in their garden (with the help of parents).
Gardening is a healthy, fun activity for children that includes spending time outdoors, allowing them to develop new skills and learn about science and nature from growing their own food. It’s a rewarding process! Depending on your child’s age, there are different activities they can get involved with when gardening- which we’ve listed later on. Make sure that your garden is a safe place, with suitable equipment and tools for children to use.
While not everyone has a backyard, there are still ways to introduce the benefits of gardening to children, even if it’s planting a seed into a small pot on a windowsill or verandah. Another option if you don’t have a backyard available is to visit a community garden or local farm and start conversations about growing food and seeing how you can get involved. Alternatively, you could go to a local park with a notepad and together with your child, draw the plants you see and take notes, starting a conversation about nature and how to care for it.
People of all ages can enjoy gardening, but children, in particular, will have lots of fun and gain special benefits. Gardening is educational and develops new skills including:
- Responsibility – from caring for plants
- Understanding – as they learn about cause and effect (for example, plants die without water, weeds compete with plants)
- Self-confidence – from achieving their goals and enjoying the food they have grown
- Love of nature – a chance to learn about the outdoor environment in a safe and pleasant place
- Reasoning and discovery – learning about the science of plants, animals, weather, the environment, nutrition and simple construction
- Physical activity – doing something fun and productive
- Cooperation – including shared play activity and teamwork
- Creativity – finding new and exciting ways to grow food
- Nutrition – learning about where fresh food comes from.
The outside environment encourages skills such as problem-solving and negotiating risk which are important for child development. On top of being outside, being involved in gardening means various more benefits for children and their development.
Younger children will need careful supervision during activities. Choose activities that suit the child’s age. Suggestions include:
- Watering the garden
- Picking flowers
- Planting vegetables, fruits and flowers in the correct season
- Feeding the worms and using the ‘worm tea’ from the worm farm as fertiliser
- Picking vegetables and fruits when they are ready to eat
- Preparing healthy food, such as making salads and preparing school lunches
- Craft activities using harvested seeds, plants and flowers
- Composting, recycling and mulching
- Gathering seeds and dried flowers
- Deadheading flowers
- Preparing the soil with organic fertiliser
- Replanting and re-potting.
- Keep sprays and fertilisers out of reach.
- Do not use chemicals- garden organically wherever possible.
- Secure fences and gates.
- Wear sunscreen, hats, suitable clothing and gumboots.
- Do not leave buckets of water unattended around very young children and toddlers.
- Store equipment and tools out of reach, when you’re using them make sure you choose an appropriate size for children to use.
Early Childhood Education and Sustainability Education
At Sustainable Play Preschool, sustainability will be embedded in everything we teach.
Contact with nature is a crucial part of sustainability education in early childhood education and care. This helps children develop an appreciation for the Earth and all its inhabitants. Educators in childcare settings can provide a learning culture where children develop skills to take care of nature through play and creativity. Outdoor activities and play-based learning allow children to foster creativity and imagination and develop their social and emotional skills. There are plenty of benefits of gardening with children, so, find a spot in the garden and start digging!
Betterhealth.vic.gov.au. (2019). Gardening for children. [online] Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/HealthyLiving/gardening-for-children [Accessed 8 Oct. 2019].
The Conversation. (2019). Children are our future, and the planet’s. Here’s how you can teach them to take care of it. [online] Available at: http://theconversation.com/children-are-our-future-and-the-planets-heres-how-you-can-teach-them-to-take-care-of-it-113759 [Accessed 8 Oct. 2019].