In a previous blog post, we discussed the numerous benefits gardening provides for senior citizens. Of course, senior citizens aren’t the only population of people who stand to benefit from spending time in the garden. Children, teenagers, and adults can all reap benefits from working with the land. Research suggests that children can especially benefit from the lessons instilled by growing plants; gardening, child psychologists and educators say, is beneficial to childhood development and a valuable educational resource. That might be why many elementary schools have gardening clubs, or why science classes are increasingly using gardening projects as discovery tools. No doubt, the lessons we all gleam from gardening start when we’re children and build throughout our entire lives. Cool, right?
Why Kids Benefit from Gardening
First and foremost, gardening is a great educational resource for children of all ages. Though gardening may seem like a simple task to adults, children use gardening as a gateway to scientific inquiry. The small act of growing a single plant can inspire questions about how our ecosystem works, what kind of plants grow in certain environments, how much water and food plants need to thrive, and how chemical processes like photosynthesis work. Thus, gardening is a great tool in science education; but it can also be used to teach creative, mathematical, and practical skills. Some teachers encourage children to keep gardening journals or read gardening books. Others have children measure their plants week by week and independently figure the depth and width of their plots. And all gardening exercises inevitably require patience, intuition, a keen eye for detail, and other practical skills that children can use throughout their life in any number of disciplines. Thus, gardening can be considered a holistic educational experience; one that requires children to utilize a diverse set of skills to create something real, lasting, and important. Because gardening yields such concrete rewards, even the most obstinate of kids will be able to see the fruits of their labor, so to speak.
Gardening also encourages healthy habits that kids can continue to practice into adulthood. After all, gardening is hard, physical labor. It requires kids to get outside, put their hands in the dirt, and honestly work. Though not as intensive as a competitive sport, gardening is a safe and efficient form of exercise. It burns calories, raises resting heart rate, and can strengthen muscles and joints. Of course, what’s grown in the garden also has health benefits to children and families. In an age where packaged foods are ubiquitous, home-grown produce has special value. Even the pickiest eaters are more likely to enjoy fruits and vegetables if they worked hard to create them.
As well as helping the body and the mind, gardening also has important emotional benefits for children. In an age of constant technological involvement, gardening is a welcome respite. It encourages reflection, patience, and personal industriousness. As a family activity, it is a unique and rewarding form of interpersonal bonding. For children who have trouble concentrating while sitting in desks all day, it is a productive way to spend excess energy. Ultimately, gardening provides a benefit to almost every child. Even a small gardening project can foster a lasting interest in scientific discovery, the environment, physical activity, spiritual and emotional growth, and many other exciting ways of living and learning in the world. If you have yet to give your child the gift of gardening, know it is never too late to start!