Growing with Your Little One—The Why and How.
Gardening is hugely beneficial to any child’s development. Their brain, body, and soul will reap the benefits of getting outdoors and nurturing a plant. We’ve laid out the advantages of gardening with your little ones and given some advice on how to keep them engaged.
If you have a kid, then you know how serious kids can be about their career aspirations. Astronaut, prima ballerina, world-leading heart surgeon, olympic athlete, ocean explorer…They are positively and proudly unrealistic about their future, which is exactly the kind of dreaming we should all shoot for. As parents (or older siblings or grandparents), we want to help them achieve everything they want.
At the same time, we don’t want to overwhelm them with extra-curriculars that exhaust their spirit. We’ve discovered that gardening is a non-stressful and effective way to boost your kids’ imagination, their spirits, and their understanding of the world. Simultaneously, you’ll be fostering better relationships with your kids, and they’ll be having loads of fun.
Gardening is a great activity for kids of all ages, but it’s especially beneficial for your little ones. They can begin reaping the benefits of gardening as early as three years old. (Not that you shouldn’t start earlier.) Today, we’ve laid out the benefits of gardening, so you know exactly what you’re getting into when you garden with your children.
FIRST, BRAIN POWER.
For starters, gardening with your kid can help develop your child’s brain in a big way.
Studies reveal that children who garden with their parents score markedly higher on scientific achievement tests. Showing your kids the growth of a plant is a wonderful opportunity to teach your kids important scientific concepts. Questions like, “Why do plants need sun? How does the plant ‘drink’? What are roots?” are bound to come up. It’ll give you, as the parent, an opportunity to introduce your kid to the science of the earth well before they learn about photosynthesis and soil composition in middle school.
But science isn’t the only academic subject that can be introduced by gardening. Math concepts will also come up. As you’re growing, you’ll help your kid measure out food, measure the water, measure how much the plant has grown from week-to-week, count the blooms…For kids that are pre-kindergarten, these are big and important concepts. The sooner they understand the practical application of “1, 2, 3” and a ruler, the bigger advantage they’ll have when they begin school where math often becomes an abstract practice.
Moreover, gardening with kids helps them understand the earth’s processes like no other activity. We are all taught vaguely where our food comes from, but gardening is an immediate and interactive example of that process. Your child will have a deeper understanding of where the things he or she eats comes from. It opens up opportunities to discuss the agricultural community and the environment at large which, in this industry-driven age, is often overlooked—especially if you and your children are urbanites.
Lastly, gardening will surely trigger your children’s imagination. Learning new things and watching growth and change sends your kids into a creative spree. Imagination is natural to young people—maintaining and nurturing it is the hard part. Helping your kid grow may be helping your kid achieve their out-of-this-world aspirations.
NEXT, PHYSICAL BOONS.
When you buy tomatoes or carrots from the grocery store, you are buying food that has been prematurely harvested and ripened during its shipment period. When you harvest fresh from your garden, your food has been allowed to fully ripen on the vine. This means that the nutrients of your vegetables have fully developed.
Essentially, one of the pros of gardening with your little one is that they’ll be eating healthy, nutrient-filled food. And at such a young age, nutrients really matter! It can help your child grow into their best physical and mental self. (It also happens that the quickest and easiest food items to grow—spinach, garlic, and beets—are hugely helpful in boosting brain development.)
Additionally, as your kid grows with you, he or she will develop an understanding of nutrients in general. They’ll learn where fresh food comes from and what it tastes like. As they do so, you can open up a discussion about what’s healthy and why, including what a well-balanced diet looks like. They’ll also be much more inclined to taste food that they’ve grown themselves. So, if you haven’t gotten your child to try spinach yet, let them grow it with you!
And although it may be the least expected benefit of gardening, simply being outside is hugely helpful in children’s development. In the era of technology (and the era of urban families), kids spend increasing amounts of time inside with their computers or phones and less time outside soaking up the imperative Vitamin D.
But the sun is not the only reason being outside is important. Soil contains a special kind of bacteria called mycobacterium vaccae. This is a bacteria that directly alleviates symptoms of psoriasis, allergies, and asthma. Asthma and allergies are more common among children than ever before, and researchers have found that the pervasiveness of these issues is directly correlated to the increasing sterility of our world. Now, scientists hypothesize that the increase of asthma and allergies is due to the lack of mycobacterium children intake in their daily lives. So, especially you urban dwellers, take your kids out to help plant! They’ll love getting dirty, and so will their immune systems.
LASTLY, EMOTIONAL HEALTH
Helping your child develop a sympathetic and secure emotional being is an important part of raising a child. Gardening is a way to do this without trying too hard.
First and foremost, every child needs meaningful family connections. Gardening makes us put down technology. It promotes communication between family members and encourages team efforts. The time when you and your kid are watering your plant or harvesting is a moment where they can ask you questions. Often this includes topics well-beyond gardening. It’s a moment of quiet attentiveness that amiable to strengthening relationships.
Besides, an understanding of cause and effect is bound to be effected in young gardeners. If you don’t water, the plant dies. If you take care of it, the plant produces veggies. Then, when your child succeeds (most likely with your help), they get to accept the rewards. Plus, gardening teaches that you are responsible for your plant’s experience—you can think of your kid’s container garden as the precursor to a pet. Gardening is very clearly, “you reap what you sow.” And that lesson, although oft repeated, is usually abstract. Growing is a practical example of this life lesson, and it is easily understood by young people.
Further, we at Gardenuity believe that everyone needs to take time to develop their nurturing side and experience the satisfaction that comes from caring for something. And why not begin the practice of empathy young? Children are certainly capable of it, and it will help them in their future relationships. Growing also fosters a deep appreciation and respect for the earth.
WHAT & HOW?
As far as what to grow, we recommend lettuce or mesclun—they’re quick and reliable (and also a great way to pique your kid’s interest in eating salads). Radishes are notorious super growers, ideal for your extra young children. In almost no time at all, your kids will be plucking these veggies from the dirt. Carrots are an all-time classic—almost all kids love carrots and will be thrilled to harvest them, even though carrots take longer to mature. Lastly, herbs are the easiest to grow with the quickest returns. We guarantee you child will be excited by them.
As far as how…well, the good news is that Gardenuity has made it really easy to involve your kids in growing. In fact, you don’t have to know the first thing about gardening to grow successfully with your kids. If you and your kid follow our instructions, you’ll have a grand ole time.
If you’re concerned about how to keep your kid engaged in the process, it might be easier than you think. There’s a natural magnetic attraction between kids and the earth—every child loves to play outside. They make mud, discover weeds, try to eat grass, and constantly pick up roly-polys. And studies have shown that gardening outside tends to calm down people of all ages (including children) and focus their attention.
In any case, here are some tips to keep your kids interested!
1. It might sounds silly, but give them real tools (within reason). The reality is, your kids can probably handle it, and giving them a visual representation of their responsibility is confidence-boosting and focusing.
2. Start from seeds. We’re sure your kids will also love planting live plants, but starting from our seed squares gives your kid an opportunity to see the growing process in its entirety. It takes more patience, but the reward is way more exciting.
3. Involve the whole family! Seeing older children and parents invested in growing a certain plant or plants will encourage them to keep interested.
4. Give them real responsibility. Your kid can handle it (even if you need to help them out behind the scenes). Let them plant, water, harvest, AND help cook in the kitchen afterwards. The direct garden to table link will be exciting to them.
5. Show off their work! Every kid loves a proud nod from their parents, so don’t be afraid to showcase your kid’s growing capabilities to your neighbors and friends.
We don’t think you’ll have any issues getting your kid excited about gardening, and we guarantee that the benefits to their mental, physical, and emotional self will be huge. It’s an opportunity for you to grow closer to your kid(s) and open up a habit of discussion. Life lessons abound in the garden, and we’re positive your little one will learn and grow by growing.