A garden makes one of the best classrooms. From learning how to work with others, to learning about nutrition, to engaging in the natural world, gardening has a lot to offer kids. So, it’s definitely worth considering starting a small children’s garden in your own backyard.
There is a ton of information out there on all the ways gardening can positively impact kids. For now, we’ll focus on a University of Colorado Fact Sheet, which cites a number of studies that point to the benefits gardening offers kids.
We’ve put together a list of benefits that gardening offers kids, and some tips and ideas to get you started creating your own kid-friendly garden space!
Here are the main points:
1. Gardening encourages kids to take responsibility for their health.
Kids that garden are more likely to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables.
2. Gardening improves social and emotional skills.
One study found that kids who participated in a one-year gardening program, as compared to kids not involved in a gardening program, demonstrated more maturity and a better understanding of self, as well as a better ability to relate with others. Kids have also reported feeling calm, happy, and connected to adult mentors and peers while gardening.
3. Gardening can improve academic performance.
Gardening has been linked to kids scoring higher on science tests.
4. Gardening can lead to kids caring more about the environment.
Kids who have more outdoor experiences are more likely to have a positive attitude towards the environment and a better understanding of ecology.
5. Gardening can improve a kid’s overall attitude and self-esteem.
Gardening can have a therapeutic effect on kids who struggle to connect, learn, or who have a habit of getting into trouble.
If you’re interested in getting your kids involved in gardening as a way to encourage all of the above-mentioned benefits, here are few tips to keep in mind:
1. Involve kids from the beginning.
If your kids are old enough, get them in on gardening from the start. They can help plan and prep the garden bed. They can help decide what to grow, design the layout, and pick the seeds out of the catalogue or at the store. For little ones, just getting them in on what you’re doing will mean the world! Let them go crazy with their own trowel and a packet of seeds.
2. Let the kids have control.
If your tendency is to overshadow your two-year-old and line all their seeds up in perfectly spaced rows, try to hold back. Let your kids make the calls. If you designate a bed just for your kids, you’ll have nothing to lose. Your kids will only have experience and confidence and great learning to gain. And you will get to watch it happen. Be an encourager and guide, and maybe offer suggestions and insight, but don’t take over. Let them do it their way.
3. Add other elements to keep kids thinking and engaged.
Get kids in on designing labels for the plants. Give them their own set of tools. Maybe start a compost bin or try vermiculture. Build a trellis or even a raised bed with them. Maybe fashion your own rain barrel. Even better, challenge your kids to come up with their own garden project!
4. Choose seeds with a short germination time.
Green beans and peas are perfect for kids! They are larger, so easier to handle and see. And they typically germinate within a week or so. Early results help to keep kids interested.
5. Give kids room to take risks.
Encourage your kids to engage in the natural world. Teach them to respect it, rather than fear it. Bees, snakes, earthworms are all things kids can easily become fearful of unless an adult is there to lead by example. The confidence kids gain as a part of the natural world is so rewarding to see!