by Sarah Franc
A parent can buy all the toys and electronics in the world for their child, but one should never underestimate the endless hours of fun in playing in the dirt. For children and adults, the rewards of growing your own garden are immense. From sowing the seeds to witnessing your flowers or vegetables/fruits emerge from the earth, gardening is one of the best ways to actively teach your child essential life skills.
Benefits We live in a society that spends more time smiling at their screens than smiling at their children. Setting up a family garden will be a great opportunity to put the electronics away and spend some quality time with your child doing something productive. Your children will enjoy spending time outdoors and will develop a love and appreciation for nature while putting their curiosity to good use (rather than getting into mischief).
A study by the Royal Horticulture Society (RHS) investigated the impacts of gardening in school. By replacing the white board with active learning, the study reported three core areas in which the children’s lives improved:
1. Readiness to learn 2. Resilience 3. Responsibility
More specifically, according to the RHS, gardening encouraged children to:
• Become stronger, active learners capable of thinking independently • Gain a more resilient, confident, and responsible approach to life so they can achieve their goals and play a positive role in society • Learn vital job skills such as presentation skills, communication, and team work, and fuel their entrepreneurial spirit • Embrace a healthier, more active lifestyle • Develop the ability to work and communicate with people of all ages and backgrounds
Keep It Interesting The growing process can be long, and some young ones may get discouraged when the results are not immediate. Make sure to keep your children involved and interested in the project. Let them get dirty! The basis of a garden’s appeal for a child is getting to play in the dirt, so encourage it! Also, it is important to allow your child to make some decisions. Perhaps let him or her choose the flowers or vegetables/fruits to cultivate, or choose crops that your child will enjoy. If your little one loves strawberries, plant strawberries! Planting flowers that attract butterflies, ladybugs, and other interesting creatures will be an added bonus for children. This will allow them to spend more time in the garden investigating and learning about nature.
Safety It is vital that your little one learns and practices garden safety. Keep all fertilizers or sprays away from your child and stay away from the use of pesticides in your garden. One of the major benefits of growing your own garden is that you control all aspects of the growing process. Therefore, you will know what is going into your body. Stay away from pesticides; grow organically. Also, teach your child how to properly use the garden tools and be sure children are properly supervised while using said tools. Lastly, spending hours in the garden in the summer can get hot. Stay properly hydrated and wear sunscreen or protective clothing.
Whether your garden flourishes or not, your children will cherish the memories you made while spending time in the garden. As long as you keep it a relaxing experience and have fun, you and your children will continue to learn through the journey, and hopefully have some beautiful flowers and delicious food to show for it.
Sara is a graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Stout’s journalism program.