According to Scarborough, almost half of American homeowners are gardeners. While we might perceive gardening to be an activity enjoyed by older adults, the gardening trend also is captivating younger generations. As budgets tighten and prices rise, many families are integrating a green lifestyle that includes growing their own produce, herbs and flowers. And even kids are pitching in a green thumb.
While produce gardens are a juicy trend, veggies and fruits are just a small part of the lush greenery in a garden. Each family’s needs and lifestyles influence their garden design, and succulents, ferns, colorful blossoms and herbs are some of the many bounties planted in backyards, porches, decks and even community plots. For the children who grow up with a green space bursting with garden life, the benefits are numerous.
Gardening teaches kids skills that go beyond just planting a seed. Lessons are found in plants, the creatures inside the garden and the everyday tasks of sustaining green life. For families who are interested in beginning a garden, here are eight ways that gardening can help a child ‘blossom:’
- Improve motor skills.
Gardening involves lots of fine motor skill movements. Kids need to use a pincher grasp to hold tiny seeds. Small hands also need to grasp and maneuver shovels to dig the holes where seeds will begin their lives. Plucking weeds also involves grasping and pulling.
- Sensory play.
Soil is great for sensory play. Toddlers need to be introduced to different textures, and the soil (and all its fun treasures!) is the perfect sensory playground.
Encouraging kids to help in the garden teaches them responsibility. Ideally, each child should have his/her own job in the garden. This teaches kids that they are an integral part of the garden’s success. Whether they water growing seedlings, pull weeds or just assist grown-ups, little gardeners play a big role in the family garden.
- Life cycles.
The garden is a microcosm of life. Even younger children learn to appreciate how a tiny seed grows into a plant and later blossoms into beautiful flowers, bursts with leaves or produces our fruits and veggies.
- Symbiotic relationships.
No, a toddler will not understand the meaning of “symbiotic,” but they will understand that flowers need the bees for pollination. Every part of the flower has a role; those pretty petals lure friendly bees with their sweet smelling oils. The bees use flower nectar for honey, and the flowers use the bees for pollination! Parents can also teach how squirmy slimy worms help nourish the soil and how ladybugs eat the bad bugs. Every little creature has a unique role in the garden…some are helpful, and others (like aphids!) are harmful.
- A sense of pride.
Kids feel a sense of pride and accomplishment through gardening, and helping to nurture plants is an amazing feat. Kids who lack confidence might find a comforting solace in gardening. Always offer praise and encouragement when children help in the garden!
- Following directions and teamwork.
Most kids will need the help of an adult in the garden. Working with others teaches children the concept of working as part of a group (or team) and also helps kids learn to follow directions.
- Healthy eating!
Children whose families grow their own produce will eat more fruits and veggies. After helping in the garden, children will be excited to taste the foods that they helped grow. Kids and parents also will appreciate the hard work that goes into the food on their plates.
While gardening is a popular pastime for older generations, today’s young families are discovering their own green thumbs. And kids reap the benefits of their family’s green lifestyle, especially when parents actively involve their children in the garden. Children of all ages can explore the world around them by digging, planting and taking an active role in sustaining the bountiful blossoms, bursting greenery and growing produce that lives and thrives in their own backyard.