10 Reasons to Start Gardening with Your Kids
Whether you live out in the country, in the suburbs, or in the heart of the city itself, gardening with your kids is a fun bonding activity that gets you both outdoors and working with nature.
Gardening can be as simple as potted plants on a sunny windowsill, or a container garden on the back deck. If you have more space, you could consider a mixed garden of flowers, vegetables, and herbs. And while it can be a lot of work, especially at the beginning, there are so many benefits to gardening with your kids:
It Teaches Kids Responsibility
Responsibility is one of life’s most important lessons. Gardening can teach that – literally in spades. Caring for plants – watering, pruning, mulching – is a great way to teach kids to care for other living things, just like having a pet. You may have to supervise younger children, but you can dole out more responsibility that’s age-appropriate.
It’s Good Exercise
If you’re struggling with ways to keep your kids active – it’s estimated that nearly three out of four American children don’t get enough exercise – gardening does provide a good amount of physical activity. Between chores like hoeing, weeding, and hauling water, your kids will definitely be working off some of their energy. It’s a great way to add to your child’s activity levels, especially for kids who are less competitive, in a way that’s fun and rewarding.
It’s Great Bonding Time
Some of the best bonding happens when you’re working side by side. Gardening brings in a cooperative, teamwork element where you’re both working towards common goals. Slow-paced, repetitive tasks generally get people in that reflective mode that makes it easy to talk about what’s on their minds. Even during quieter, more silent moments, the togetherness and teamwork involved really helps people connect over time.
It Teaches Kids Where Food Comes From
Surprisingly, not all kids know where tomatoes come from. Ask a random toddler and you may find them answering: “the market.” There is a big disconnect in this country between where food is grown and where it is actually eaten. If you have a garden – even if it is just something simple like tomato plants on the back deck – this is an immediate and concrete lesson for your kids about where food comes from and how much work goes into raising it.
It’s Great Stress Relief
Kids get stressed just like grown-ups – there is more pressure than ever on them from peers, from schools, and from society in general – and fewer coping mechanisms. Getting out into a garden and watering and caring for it, or just sitting and enjoying its beauty, is a great way to unwind.
It Teaches Kids about Natural Science
As most gardeners know, gardening is a concrete way to learn about plants, soil, insects, and even the weather, providing great “teaching moments” for parents who want to make sure their children have a good foundation in natural sciences.
It Teaches Important Lessons in Sharing
Let’s face it – one of the biggest challenges in parents is getting your kids to share with others, whether that be space in the bedroom or a brand-new toy. If you grow a large garden and bring in a bumper crop of vegetables, then giving some to a neighbor or better yet, donating them to a food pantry or other charity, teaches kids lessons in sharing.
It Teaches Life Skills
Successful gardeners know all about hard work, planning, and most of all, patience. The act of beginning a garden, deciding what to put in it and then planting seeds and watching them grow teach all of these important life skills. It also can be a great lesson in delayed gratification, since there can be months between the time something is planted and the time for harvesting vegetables or flowers.
It Fosters a Love of Nature
With more and more kids living in urban areas, there is a bigger and bigger disconnect between children and nature. There are many children nowadays who don’t get to experiences green spaces at all.
Even a small, rooftop garden in a city can help re-establish a connection with nature. If you have more space to dedicate to a garden, then something like a butterfly garden will also allow your children to discover the wonders of the natural world.
It Gets Them Interested in Healthy Eating
Let’s face it – many kids would live off of Chicken McNuggets and ice cream if you would let them! The USDA recommends that people strive to get around 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day. And one way to make healthy eating fun is to have a vegetable garden for kids to work in. When your child gets to harvest tomatoes or green beans themselves after working so hard for them, they’ll be more willing to try them out at dinner.
So whether you are planning a large country-style flower garden, an herb bed, or potted tomatoes on your deck, any gardening you can do with your kids will pass on a host of benefits. Again, while establishing a garden can mean a lot of time and effort to begin with, it really is a great project to undertake for kids of any age.
Have you started a garden at home? How do your kids help?
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