Grow­ing Up Gar­den­ing

Plant­ing a sense of pur­pose and re­spon­si­bil­ity in chil­dren

Cape Coral Living - - Contents - BY MANDY CARTER

“Why try to ex­plain mir­a­cles to your kids when you can just have them plant a gar­den?” —Robert Brault

In our busy dig­i­tal age, chil­dren need mean­ing­ful fam­ily con­nec­tions. De­sign­ing a gar­den, plant­ing seeds and watch­ing the plants grow can give chil­dren a sense of pur­pose and re­spon­si­bil­ity. Gar­den­ing can also teach them team build­ing and pro­mote com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Chil­dren are, of course, cu­ri­ous—and they learn best by do­ing. They also love to play in the dirt. Gar­den­ing en­sures chil­dren will gain new skills while check­ing that the plants get enough fer­til­izer, water and sun. They will also de­velop a sense of mind­ful­ness. Con­cepts learned while gar­den­ing, such as com­post­ing food scraps for fer­til­izer or us­ing gath­ered rain­wa­ter, can show chil­dren a deep re­spect and re­spon­si­bil­ity for tak­ing care of our planet. Fur­ther­more, a num­ber of stud­ies show that when chil­dren par­tic­i­pate in ac­tiv­i­ties such as dig­ging and plant­ing, they have im­proved moods, bet­ter learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences and de­creased anx­i­ety. Most im­por­tant, the self­es­teem and ex­cite­ment chil­dren feel from eat­ing veg­eta­bles or gift­ing flow­ers that they grew are price­less.

TIPS FOR SUC­CESS:

GIVE THEM SE­RI­OUS TOOLS. Do not give your chil­dren in­ex­pen­sive kids’ gar­den­ing tools. They of­ten break, cre­at­ing frus­tra­tion. Also, find good work gloves that fit small hands. And with some gar­den tools, such as hoes and spades, you can eas­ily use a saw to shorten the han­dles. Con­sider even let­ting them use your tools to show the im­por­tance of the work they’re do­ing.

START FROM SEEDS. While it’s a con­ve­nient short­cut to use starter kits, chil­dren learn best by see­ing the grow­ing process start from seeds. The care given to sprout­ing seeds and nur­tur­ing young seedlings are a valu­able part of the gar­den­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Most im­por­tant, the self-es­teem and ex­cite­ment chil­dren feel from eat­ing veg­eta­bles or gift­ing flow­ers that they grew are price­less.

CHEAT A LIT­TLE. De­pend­ing on the age of the chil­dren, you may need to help out a lit­tle “be­hind the scenes.” Not ev­ery gar­den task is pleas­ant or fun, and chil­dren may not be ready at all times for all the nec­es­sary tasks. You may need to go out in the evenings to pick a few slugs off the let­tuce, or be the one to run out and move the sprin­kler.

SHOW OFF THEIR WORK. Give “gar­den tours” to vis­i­tors. Take pho­to­graphs of the grow­ing gar­den and send them to grand­par­ents. The at­ten­tion you give to the chil­dren’s work is a big mo­ti­va­tor for them to stay in­volved with the en­tire gar­den­ing process.

Mandy Carter is a lo­cal mom with a pas­sion for fam­ily travel, a pop­u­lar travel blog­ger in­clud­ing her own fam­ily blog at acup­ful.com, and the man­ag­ing edi­tor for TOTI Me­dia.

Gar­den­ing can also teach them team build­ing and pro­mote com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

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