Gardening With Children: Cultivate These 5 Life Skills

Gardening with Kids - 5 Life Skills.

Gardening is one of our favourite ways to unwind and the benefits to both mind and body can be numerous.

There’s a lot more to gardening than simply planting seeds and watching them grow. With a little bit of planning, it can be a rich educational journey, full of exciting lessons and character-building experiences.

As parents and educators, we’re always on the lookout for innovative ways to teach valuable life skills, and gardening offers a unique hands-on opportunity to cultivate these in a natural, enjoyable setting.

In this article, we’ll explore the world of gardening with children, and highlight some of the many ways it can help ‘sow the seeds’ of lifelong learning (pun intended!) by developing 5 key life skills.

Life skills that can be nurtured with gardening

1. Personal Responsibility & Accountability

Watering tomato plants.

Each stage of a plant’s life requires specific care and attention, from sowing seeds to nurturing their growth. Gardening is an excellent way for children to learn about being accountable for living things.

By assigning them specific roles and responsibilities in the garden, we can give them a sense of ownership, which builds confidence.

Responsibilities might include selecting an appropriate crop depending on one’s needs and the constraints of the environment. They can also be tasked with ensuring plants receive enough water and sunlight. Jobs like these can encourage them to take ownership of their actions and their consequences, laying a foundation for responsible behaviour.

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.

Gardening - seedlings on the windowsill.

3. Self Care (Physical & Emotional)

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.

Tip:
Include varieties of plants with interesting textures or scents – this can be particularly beneficial for those with visual impairments or special needs.

Picking tomatoes with teddy.

4. Effective Teamwork & Collaboration

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 learn 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.

5. Compassion (Empathetic Understanding)

A colourful bowl of Strawberries.

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.

Tip:
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 they 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.

Gardening with a disability

Tending to a garden can be an incredibly accessible and rewarding activity which can be embraced by children of different abilities and needs.

The charity, ‘Thrive’ have a wonderful website with a wealth of information on how to get the most out of gardening, including information helpful to those with disabilities.