June 25, 2012
It’s a beautiful day outside and where are our children? In today’s technology- and media-driven world, most of them would probably choose to be inside, absorbed by a computer or television screen if we let them. How can parents help make the outdoors as appealing to their children as the digital world indoors? One simple way to ensure outdoor play is to plant a garden with your child. In addition to teaching valuable science and ecology lessons, gardening helps children practice important traits and skills like patience, math, teamwork, responsibility and planning.
Gardening for a Healthy Body: With childhood obesity rates at an all-time high, it’s evident that children need to participate in more daily physical activities. Gardening is a great way for children to get their hearts pumping and soak up some beneficial vitamin D from the sun. Digging, weeding and watering require physical exertion and increase strength, endurance and coordination. Children who understand the importance of physical activity at a young age are more likely to make the connection later in life.
Gardening is also a great way to get children excited about eating healthy vegetables. Gardening experiences will help children connect with nature as their seeds transform from sprouts to ready-to-eat vegetables. It’s amazing how good the broccoli you grow yourself tastes. The development of positive attitudes and greater acceptance of veggies will also help improve overall health and nutrition.
Gardening for an Active Mind: Children can learn so much about living things through gardening. They can directly observe the impact water, sunshine and food have on the survival of plants. Plus, the investigatory skills they learn in the garden build higher order thinking skills. “Children who garden gain knowledge in science and math and are less likely to take the food they see in the grocery store for granted,” said Dr. Mary Zurn, vice president of Education and Professional Development for Primrose Schools.
Gardening for a Happy Heart: Not only can gardening boost children’s health and intellect, it can also teach them important life lessons. You can get the whole family growing together by heading outside and digging in the dirt - it’s a great way to spend quality time with one another. Children can also learn and practice important life skills such as planning, teamwork, responsibility and patience. Make the most out of your child’s gardening experience with these tips:
• Interest is key. Show your child how much you enjoy gardening by tending it daily. Remember, the difference between gardening and yard work is fun; children can tell the difference.
• Give ownership. Set aside an area specifically for your child to garden. If he wants to drop an entire packet of seeds in one hole, encourage him to experiment and see what happens.
• Choose plants together. Take your child to your local garden center or co-op to select plants. To increase the probability that your child will have a positive gardening experience, recommend low-maintenance plants with high success rates for your part of the country but let them choose a few on their own.
• Use small tools. Many manufacturers offer smaller, child-sized trowels, gloves, rakes, hoes and other gardening tools. Having their own tools gives children the opportunity to make a significant impact on their patch. Smaller tools are also safer and easier for children to handle and control.
• Celebrate! After all your hard work, celebrate by harvesting the fruit of your labor! Serve vegetables for dinner (have your child help pick the menu), decorate with cut flowers from the garden, and share garden gifts with friends.
• Keep Growing! Take pictures of your family’s gardening adventures as fun mementos of time spent together. Read books and explore websites together to keep gardening and growing season after season. Here are a few recommendations to keep up that green thumb: o Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss o Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens o Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin o Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert o Dig, Plant, Grow by Felder Rushing o Grow It, Cook It with Kids by Amanda Grant