Gardening and child development
To be a well-rounded human, we need to nurture our mind, body and soul. We must eat well, exercise regularly and find ways to relax the spinning mind and deal with stress. All too often, these valuable life skills are left to chance with many of us ‘learning the hard way’ in adulthood.
As a parent, you have your child’s best interests at heart and you want them to be balanced, happy and healthy individuals. And that means teaching them how to challenge their brains, live healthily and eat well.
How can you do this? Get out in the garden of course!
Your Garden is Perfect
On TV shows and in the pages of magazines, we see perfectly coiffured gardens with pretty hanging lanterns and not a weed in sight. The reality of your garden may be different: there are weeds (bees and other garden friendly insects love these!), weather-battered fairy solar lights, the washing line in the centre of the garden, along with heaps of kids toys and not a patch of level earth to be seen.
And that’s OK because your garden doesn’t have to match someone else’s idea of perfection. You and your children can grow vegetables and herbs in the smallest patch of earth or pot. The time you spend together creating your own small patch of gardening heaven is worth far more than getting a professional to create cultivated borders.
With this in mind, what does time in the garden actually mean for your child’s brain, their mind and their soul?
I. Concepts and Questions – Kick Starting the Brain
Think of all the concepts you children will be taught in school. From numeracy and literacy to complex mathematical theories to scientific concepts, there is a range that your child will encounter.
Research has shown that when children encounter these concepts in real life, they remember and understand them better. That means understanding science and maths in action, and it means asking intelligent questions too.
Why do plants need sunlight to grow? Why are worms good for the soil? What do ants add to the balance of a garden? How do plants suck up the water that they need?
These are just some of the searching questions children ask but get this – by learning to garden and care for seedlings and plants, they learn the answer too.
Add to this online research and education sites specifically for children and you mixing all the right ingredients to help your child’s knowledge and understanding to blossom.
II. Physical Strength – How the Body Enjoys Gardening
It is an ongoing battle and one that households across the country face on a daily basis – getting kids to eat the right stuff.
Showing children how vegetables and fruits grow, where they come from and the part they can play in growing delicious foods encourages them to try new foods. They may still hate peas but seeing the bright red flowers of the runner bean plant and enjoying their fruits is just as good.
We also live in a world where, as parents, we are increasingly encouraged to create an almost sterile environment within the home and beyond to keep our children safe from germs and pathogens.
Recent studies have shown that this anti-bacterial obsession is not doing our children any favours. Children love getting dirty so why not spend an afternoon get dirt under fingernails planting vegetables, fruits and plants, or picking the sugar snap peas for tea?
Clearly, washing your hands after gardening is also a lesson that children need to learn but staying away from dirt is doing us no favours.
III. Well-being – Nurturing the Soul
We live in a digital age where everything we do or say has the potential to be shared around the globe. The online world poses many threats and opportunities for us all, especially children. From gaming to social media sites, there is an array of online activities to keep the children amused.
But are we spending too much time online, obsessing over our profile pictures and how our lives look to others? Has the smart phone or the gaming console taken the place of the times that families would normally spend together, laughing, socialising, talking and arguing?
Re-connecting is not hard but it does mean putting the gadgets and gizmos away, something that many adults and children find difficult! But why not have an afternoon in the garden, without the gadgets?
Enjoy spending time together, looking at real faces and real conversations, rather than animated screens and people’s online ‘stories’. Start creating your own story, right there in your own garden.
And gardening is a great way to relax and learn to like your own company. Why not encourage your children to potter?
But of course, there are plenty of gardening sites and children’s website that would love to see photos of the garden you nurture together.
With nothing more than a trowel and a garden fork, a small patch of soil and maybe a little bit of compost, plant some easy to grow seeds and turn your garden into an oasis that nurtures the mind, body and soul of your children (and you!)
First Tunnels have for over 20 years been supplying fruit and vegetable cages, along with polytunnels to private and commercial customers. They have close links with schools too, bring the classroom to the great outdoors and everything the garden has to offer.