At Kids Kinder we’ve come to appreciate the many benefits of children gardening. The involvement in the natural world encourages natural curiosity and self expression. All forms of gardening from tending an outdoor vegetable garden through to simply tending a seed bed or potted plant are not only enjoyable but educational. Gardening represents a wonderful opportunity for childcare providers to engage and educate the children in their care.
The garden provides a rich resource for childcare providers. Arranging gardening for kids will provide a rich interactive playground that has the potential to stimulate all the child’s senses while generating a love of nature and an interest in science. As well as being educational, gardening activities can provide a fun, social environment that can help children to build self confidence.
These reasons make gardening with toddlers and preschool children an attractive option for all childcare providers and one of the best childcare activities available.
There is a wealth of evidence to support what most of us instinctively know – that the benefits of gardening with children are many. The main ones being:
There perhaps is no better way to introduce children to science at a young age than through gardening. Children can start to explore scientific concepts such as:
Gardening has been demonstrated to be a natural stress reliever – with as little as a half hour per day having a significant effect upon the reduction of the level of the stress hormone, cortisol in children.
Spending time in a garden environment helps people of all ages to relax and settle their emotions. It is a great way for children to learn how to relieve stress.
There is nothing instant about gardening and as such it’s a great way to teach little ones the benefits of patience. Growing plants from seeds takes weeks, but children can monitor the growth and development of the plant from its first sprout until it is in full bloom. With this in mind it is wise to start children’s involvement in the garden with quick growing plants
Gardening offers plenty of opportunity for learning and it is important to give children room to make space and a feeling that they are responsible for the plant;s growth, Additional cognitive benefits that can be obtained from gardening include improvements in alertness, better focus and greater numeracy,
Gaining an understanding of how things grow and the work necessary to cultivate and produce plants will naturally help to develop a greater understanding of the natural world and the need for care and cleanliness. This understanding can in turn help to develop a better appreciation of natural produce and the value of farmers in particular.
There’s no better way to introduce a child to healthy fruit and vegetables than to involve them in the growing process. All that work is going to make them proud and perhaps curious to taste what they have worked to grow. Children can be encouraged to eat food “from the vine” or food can be harvested and included in healthy snacks and meals.
Caring for plants takes effort. Remembering to water them as well as to protect form the effects of harsh sun helps to encourage children to take responsibility for the care of the plant.
There are opportunities for children to explore the sensory inputs that a garden offers. Plants with rich textural properties ranging from lamb’s ears through to snapdragons offer opportunities to sense and contrast various plant textures. Strawberries and Rosemary are just two plants that can be easily grown to tempt the child’s taste buds. Fragrant plants like jasmine and lavender can stimulate the sense of smell. Visually appealing flowers like sunflowers are a sight for any eyes, while plants that rustle in the wind add a hearing dimension to the garden.
There are a lot of fine motor actions required in the garden. Pulling up weeds, planting seeds and caring for tiny plants all will aid fine motor development.
There’s a certain magic in the gardening process and a child that is involved in growing plants from seed till harvest is sure to feel feelings of pride and confidence in themselves as they help to produce healthy plants.
Every plant is different. Some are best suited to shade, others enjoy full sun. Some grow randomly, others look best in neat rows. The varied nature of gardening requires thought and careful planning. Involving children in these concepts helps them to understand why and how planning can deliver better results.
The importance of gardening in early childhood cannot be overstated. The benefits are many and while there may be some initial difficulties in getting started the rewards are well worth the effort.