What do you imagine when you think of gardening with children?
They always called it Magic, and indeed it seemed like it in the months that followed—the wonderful months—the radiant months—the amazing ones. Oh! The things which happened in that garden! If you have never had a garden you cannot understand, and if you have had a garden you will know that it would take a whole book to describe all that came to pass there.
~The Secret Garden
For the most part, my memories of gardening as a child are vague. There are a few specific ones—like that my mom’s favorite tomato varieties at the time were called Early Girl and Better Boy. ( I thought it was funny that the plants were “boys” and “girls”). With our wild mountain property, she always cautioned me to keep an eye and ear out for snakes. I remember our corn harvests were a little underwhelming. But aside from that I couldn’t tell you much about our little plot and what we grew on it. Tomatoes and beans were the main thing I appreciated, since I didn’t like squash til I was older.
Yet, clearly the garden had an effect on me.
From an early age I would declare “yard work” my favorite family chore, and I loved biology in school. I am still a big fan of fruits and veggies to this day, even many that I did not like in those days. And as I’m sure you can guess from this blog, the garden is still my happy place—where magic happens daily and the cares of the world disappear into the calm silence of growing things.
Not yet convinced to try gardening with children? Here are six big reasons.
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And if you still have no idea how to grow veggies, you’re in the right place! Learn about starting a garden or the super easy time-saving garden setup I used to easily maintain a veggie garden even when I had newborn twins.
1. Gardening with children promotes bonding
What mutual hobbies do you have with your kids have that you can truly enjoy and get excited about together? Gardening is enjoyable for all ages. There is something about being in the garden that calms us even when we are stressed. Gardening with children opens up chances for conversation, or even just unspoken bonding together.
2. Gardening teaches patience and delayed gratification
Gardening is a great chance for kids to set aside modern technology to be fully present and learn the patience of the process. Yet, at the same time, they will be excited to see how the garden visibly grows and changes day by day! At the end of the season, they can marvel at the fact that they got to watch the whole process from start to finish. For young children, this can even be a conversation starter about life cycles, passing time, seasons, and change.
As a side note, gardening with children can grow our own patience as well!
3. Dirt is good for kids… (Really!)
It turns out our parents or grandparents were right when they said “a little dirt doesn’t hurt!” Soil microbe exposure during childhood has been shown to be an important part of proper immune system development. This can even include decreased chance of allergies, inflammatory disease, or other auto-immune related issues.
This fascinating article gives even more information on other new studies and experiments that demonstrate how soil bacteria affects the body. It works as a natural antidepressant to lift mood, reduce stress, and improve brain function and mental and emotional health. Who knew playing in the dirt and gardening with children could really be good for us?
My kids love these boots for gardening & playing in the mud! They’re comfortable and have lots of cute patterns that we get compliments on often.
4. Gardening gives children a foundation for healthy habits
A study showed that college students who were involved with gardening as children ate more fruits and vegetables once they grew up. Another study among schoolchildren showed that the children were significantly more likely to eat vegetables when they had been involved with growing them themselves.
5. Gardening with children provides immersive, full-sensory learning
Many agree that information sticks better when you have learned it by experience and by multiple sensory inputs. With gardening, children can learn about science, biology, agriculture, food, and nutrition by experience. In the garden, kids can touch, taste, smell, watch, and be involved with every step. Sensory input is very important for kids’ development, and there is much to be learned through observation and practical experience–even if you’ve never thought you had a gift for teaching.
You can talk about the life cycles of insects and plants, or jobs that insects perform in the garden. You may watch your plants become a food source for insect or animal “pests.” Kids can learn the feel of good soil and bad soil, the textures and identification of different plants, and gain gardening knowledge that will follow them into adulthood. The activities above or the book in the link below would be a great conversation starters.
6. Gardening with Children Teaches Responsibility & Pride of Ownership
Kids love to have something that belongs to them, especially if they can take care of it “all by myself.” Even the little bits that young ones are able to do make them feel proud, excited, and involved. They can even take pride in teaching and sharing with others (peers or adults) what they have learned. And of course, they can enjoy the taste of their harvest!
This year my four year old son “grew his own corn” for the first time. I put it in in quotes because basically it meant him choosing seeds and poking them into the soil of my garden, which was already prepared and set up with a self-watering timer. (I do have to give him credit for helping me open and dump soil bags into my raised bed, too). All the same, any time we had a visitor to our home, he would drag them out to the garden to see how his corn was growing. The excitement on his face as we all picked and tasted his first produce was what inspired me to write this.linkId=4cde3899b1eeb6de4f297883181a4a34&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true”>
What are YOUR experiences with gardening with children? What benefits have you seen from it? Let me know in the comments below!
And if you don’t have a garden but would like to start… Begin here!
Every morning he was brought out and every hour of each day when it didn’t rain he spent in the garden. Even gray days pleased him. He would lie on the grass “watching things growing,” he said. If you watched long enough, he declared, you could see buds unsheath themselves.
Also you could make the acquaintance of strange busy insect things running about on various but evidently serious errands, sometimes carrying tiny scraps of straw or feather or food, or climbing blades of grass as if they were trees from whose tops one could look out to explore the country. A mole throwing up its mound at the end of its burrow and making its way out at last with the long-nailed paws which looked so like elfish hands, had absorbed him one whole morning.
Ants’ ways, beetles’ ways, bees’ ways, frogs’ ways, birds’ ways, plants’ ways, gave him a new world to explore and when Dickon revealed them all and added foxes’ ways, otters’ ways, ferrets’ ways, squirrels’ ways, and trout’ and water-rats’ and badgers’ ways, there was no end to the things to talk about and think over.
And this was not the half of the Magic.