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Thursday, April 26, 2018

9 Reasons Why Gardening is Enriching for Kids and How to Get Them Involved

Photo by Walter (Flickr)

Now that spring has arrived, I'm feeling the need to garden. There's something therapeutic and fun about digging in the dirt, planting vegetables and flowers, and nurturing the plants. Gardening enriches life for kids in many different ways, and as parents, teachers, and caregivers, we can encourage the children we care about to get excited about gardening.

Improves Fine Motor Development

Gardening requires kids to scoop dirt, place seeds, pour water, and pull weeds. These actions improve their fine motor skills, hand strength, and coordination, skills our kids use as they get dressed, write, and eat.

Teaches Responsibility

As kids water plants and pull weeds, they learn the importance of working hard and remembering their responsibilities every day. My girls use a chart to ensure that they complete all of their gardening jobs each day.

Develops Patience

I know kids have a hard time waiting, so help them develop this skill in the garden. Over time, my girls have learned that delayed gratification yields big rewards at the end of the growing season.

Provides Exercise

I always get a workout as I dig dirt, carry water, and nurture my plants. Our kids exercise and benefit from the physical act of gardening, too.

Reinforces Academic Concepts

While gardening, kids practice math, science, and other academic concepts. I challenge my girls to count seeds as you plant them, compare the shapes of different plant leaves, and research how seeds grow.

Nurtures Respect for Nature

Because we're caretakers of the earth, we have to teach the next generation to respect the planet and nature. While gardening, my girls and I often discuss topics like botany, conservation, insects, pollution, pesticides, and recycling.

Promotes Healthier Eating Habits

Kids are more likely to eat a variety of healthy fruits, vegetables, and herbs they plant, nurture, and harvest. This year, my girls plan to grow their own garden salad and agreed to try the snap peas and rosemary we're planting.

Boosts Vitamin D Exposure

Vitamin D helps us maintain strong bones, a healthy immune system, and cardiovascular health. By spending time outside, our kids can get adequate vitamin D and improve their health.

Engages the Senses

In the garden, kids can feel the dirt, see vibrant colors, hear birds chirp, smell flowers, and taste the veggies and herbs. We can also plant sense-friendly plants as we provide kids with an all-encompassing sensory experience.

While our kids can benefit from gardening in these nine ways, you may wonder how to get started. I've found several tips that can simplify gardening for kids of all ages.

Let Your Kids Decide What to Plant

My girls are always more excited about working in the garden when they take ownership and decide which plants to grow.

Select Edibles

Most kids will stay interested in gardening all season if they know they can eat the fruits of their labor!

Start Small

We started our first garden with containers on the deck. Then, as my girls' gardening skills improved, we added more plants and a larger garden area.

Cultivate a Kid-Friendly Plot

Ensure that your kids can easily reach the plants when you create a narrow garden bed with clear paths or create raised beds, something new we're trying this year. Provide kid-sized garden tools, too.

Stagger Planting and the Harvest

My girls stay engaged when we plant the garden in stages and grow plants that mature at different times.

Get Social

We ask friends to help us cultivate our garden, compare plant growth with our family members who live in other states, and invite the neighbors to share our garden produce. These social activities keep my girls engaged in the garden all season.

Wear Protection

Be sure your kids wear sunscreen, gloves, and protective shoes as they play in the dirt.

Keep it Fun

Gardening is hard work, but it's also rewarding, so we try to focus on the fun or play games as we work in the garden. In recent years, we've painted rocks as plant markers, raced to see who could pull the most weeds in five minutes, and read under a green bean teepee.

Gardening is one of our family's favorite spring and summer activities. We have fun, and our garden enriches my girls' lives in nine ways. Will you join us in cultivating a garden with your kids this year?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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