Gardening is one of our favourite ways to unwind. There are numerous benefits gardening can bring to children (and adults too!). Here are 5 key life skills that can be developed through gardening with kids (in no particular order):
At each stage of a plant’s life, from planting the seeds to cultivating them, they have a set of requirements needed in order to really thrive. Kids can develop a sense of accountability in looking after plants and tending to them. Children can take on certain roles and jobs in the garden that are assigned to them. This gives them a sense of ownership – which can be a great way of building confidence.
This could involve selecting an appropriate crop depending on one’s needs and the constraints of the environment.
2. CRITICAL THINKING
Overseeing a successful garden requires a degree of planning and forethought. We can encourage children to use their reasoning skills to make decisions on what to plant where and when. For larger plots, it can be fun to draw up a plan on paper. This can make a great group activity too as you can discuss the merits of each idea before making decisions.
3. PHYSICAL & EMOTIONAL WELLBEING
There are many health benefits to spending time outdoors, which are both physical and emotional. Gardening can help provide a focal point, and this sense of focus can have a calming effect on behaviour and mood. Expending physical energy is another more obvious benefit – performing tasks such as digging soil is a great way to burn off energy! Spending time in the garden also helps with adopting an attitude of patience and delayed gratification. Results sometimes take many days or weeks to show, which is a stark contrast to the instant gratification children come to expect from digital / screen activities. When the time comes for picking and tasting the fruit, this can also be a great springboard for instigating discussions on healthy eating and nutrition.
You could include varieties of plants with interesting textures or scents – this can be particuarly beneficial for those with visual impairments or special needs.
Tending to a larger plot can be hard work. Working together in a community garden setting can illustrate how important collaboration is. When gardening with kids, assigning individual roles within the garden can be a good way to build knowledge and confidence and learning about working as part of a team. Concepts linked to sharing produce and bartering can also be discussed, as well as growing things for others.
Plants are living things and as such require a degree of consideration when caring for them. The right amounts of warmth, sunlight, and water, as well as a delicate touch when handling them. Sometimes sick plants need extra care and attention for them to survive – a bamboo cane to support them or a piece of string tied delicately around the stem. These activities can make us think about how we interact and care for each other.
When gardening with kids, it’s important to remember that they can have limited attention spans at times! Try growing some fast-growing varieties of plants, so that kids can see results faster. Constantly talking about what you’re doing and why you are doing it also helps to keep them engaged, as does asking lots of questions.