Growing Up Gardening
Planting a sense of purpose and responsibility in children
“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.