Children are naturally drawn to the outdoors. If you look at children’s health, energy levels and enthusiasm for life, we have to ask ourselves how they manage that. Perhaps barefoot in the garden has something to do with it?
It turns out, from a medical perspective, the outdoors offers numerous benefits to the human body, especially your children’s health. You can maximise the positive effects they enjoy from their time outside by adding (over and above free play time) some structured gardening time. This gives them a chance to bond with their caregivers, while they nurture a hobby that will serve them for the rest of their lives (learn more about the benefits of gardening for adults).
We have researched the most notable benefits of gardening for children’s health:
Take the children to the store when you buy plant seeds. Let them choose the packets, and carry them. Give them a sense of ownership, they’re the guardians of the seeds.
Choose a spot in the garden together. Plant the seeds and tend to the seedlings – let the children marvel at the miracle of life that comes from a small brown bead. Have them water the seedlings daily, and as they flourish into plants, appreciate the progress.
When the time for harvest arrives, let the children pick, with pride, what they have grown. Give them the credit – this is their handy work! Let them say how they want the produce prepared – it may surprise you how open they are to taste vegetables they have previously refused.
Carrots, radishes, berries, fennel, tomatoes, cucumbers, and celery can be picked and enjoyed in the garden – fresh and crunchy! Just like that, nurturing your children’s health becomes easier.
Growing a garden is never easy. Any passionate gardener will attest to this. You plant seeds, and it takes months before you see the brightly coloured rewards. Sometimes, after months of painstaking work, everything dies after one weekend visiting away from your home.
All of these woes and frustrations are part of gardening. As are the riots of unexpected flowers after the spring rains, the seedlings that happen after you have forgotten you even planted seeds. The surprises in the compost heap, as a result of tossing your kitchen waste. The way you can’t help but gasp when those flower bulbs finally yield.
Teaching children about work and delayed gratification is an important lesson in life. As is hard work, diligence, and the responsibility of caring for your plants on an ongoing basis.
Spending time outdoors, hands in the soil, your children will naturally acquaint themselves with the seasons. It’s important to talk about how plant and flower care in the garden change from season to season.
As you start to prune, talk to your children about it. When it’s planting season, explain this too. Hands-on experience is always going to do more for their education than a chart or a textbook.
Have you ever held radish seeds in your hand? They’re tiny! Whether you’re digging the tiny trenches to plant them, or actually doing the strewing, it takes well-developed fine motor skills. That, along with weeding in delicate areas.
If your children are still very young, have them peek their garden interest by picking berries. Harvesting seeds is another activity that’s beneficial. For a young child less than two years old, it’s a wonderful exercise to strengthen their hand-eye coordination.
Initially, the digging and the physical work may not interest the children – understandably so. Hopefully, you have inducted them into gardening by giving them rewarding tasks, like growing flowers or picking veggies.
If you’ve enticed enough and you know they’re hooked, have them do some of the hard digging (if it’s age-appropriate, of course). The benefits? A perfectly dug garden bed, yes, but the children will also enjoy improved fitness, increased muscle tone, and stronger bones. All in all, the children’s health improves. That’s right, impact exercise increases bone mass, so have them and pull and carry the heavy stuff (as always, keep it age/weight appropriate).
A successful garden takes teamwork, especially where siblings are involved. They have to share in both the flowers/harvests and in the work and responsibilities. It’s deeply rewarding to see children take guardianship of their plants and tend to them with care and genuine passion. Sharing this passion is even better. The fact that you will find improvements in your children’s health is an added bonus.