The thought of gardening with kids can conjure up one of two thoughts; either idyllic sunny scenes of children playing in plentiful vegetable patches; or visions of your child covered head to toe in mud, clutching some kind of creepy-crawly!
Of course the reality lies somewhere between the two extremes. Gardening with your children can enrich their education and enhance their learning experience. More and more families are seeing the benefits of incorporating horticulture into the home education of their family.
Gardening Is Easily Integrated into Academic Subjects
The skills required within gardening fit seamlessly into many academic subjects. Within math, gardening can be used to teach counting, measuring, sizes, and even geometry! Science, particularly biology, can also be taught in real life situations in the garden. Kids can learn about earthworms, the water cycle, rock formation, the movement of the sun, bird migration and so much more. There are endless possibilities for unit studies that may be inspired by your time in the garden. Many children will also enjoy using their design and wood-work skills to create bird houses, raised vegetable beds, or even little fairy gardens!
Gardening Improves Academics
Recent studies have shown that students who regularly spend time gardening have higher tests scores than those who do not. In one study, fifth graders who participated in school gardening activities scored significantly higher on science tests, that those who have not have the gardening experience. (Klemmer, Waliczek, & Zajicek, 2005)
Gardening Enhances Outdoor Play
Most homeschooling families appreciate the benefits of outdoor play for children. Gardening is a great way to enhance that time spent outdoors. The activities involved in gardening often involve all the five senses. To enhance the experience further, you can even chose plants for your garden for the specific senses. Examples of this include:
- Touch – succulents, woolly lamb’s ear, snapdragons.
- Taste – fruit and vegetables
- Smell – sweet peas, lavender, jasmine, mint, lemon balm
The act of planting seeds, moving soil, staking canes etc. act to improve children’s fine motor skills, which are critical for good hand writing and cutting skills in their school subjects.
Gardening Provides Awareness of Environmental Issues
Regularly spending time outdoors, helps children to understand the implications of environmental issues. The time spent gardening helps your child to form a connection with the natural world, something that many children in today’s modern world do not have. It is this connection that creates empathy towards the environmental concerns, rather than apathy.
Gardening Teaches Problem Solving
Children of any age can use gardening to increase their planning and organisational skills. When planting, children need to take into consideration the best time to sow seeds, the spacing required, the position of sun, and the types of soil in different areas of the garden. Learning to assimilate and process all this information into a cohesive plan is a very valuable life skill.
Gardening Has Health Benefits
Gardening is great exercise, and time in the fresh air and sunshine is good for your children’s health. Furthermore, growing your own fruit and vegetables as a family will encourage healthy eating and positive lifestyle choices as your children grow older. Typically, people who have positive childhood memories of outdoor time will go on to pursue more outdoor lifestyles in later life.
Gardening Teaches Responsibility
Even the youngest of children can take responsibility for looking after a plant. Whether its growing their own sunflower, or being in charge a certain crop that year, children of any age can get involved. As children take charge of a task, they will develop a pride in their work and grow in self-confidence.
Gardening Is a Lesson in Patience
In a world on instant gratification, it is sometime hard to teach the virtue of patience to kids today. In gardening there are no short-cuts. Plants take time to grow, flower, and bear fruit, and children will feel a greater satisfaction in their work with this wait.
Gardening Builds Close Relationships
Gardening has often been used to bring communities together. There is something about the act of working hard outdoors that creates ties between people. This is particularly evident in urban community gardening projects. However, the same principles are true for you family.
Working together, learning to communicate and find a place within the team, will strengthen your family relationships and build the interpersonal skills of your children.
They will cherish the time you spent outdoors with them as they grow older; uninterrupted time with mum and dad, free from the distractions of phones, screens and household chores.
Beginning to garden with your children can be a daunting task, especially if you are not a confident gardener yourself. If this is you, then start small and be consistent. Learning a new skill with your children is a wonderful experience. There is a wealth of ideas online, especially from other homeschooling moms who are gardening with their children. You can read about one such mom by CLICKING HERE.
Remember, it is not the final product (flowers, fruit, vegetables etc.) that matters, but the process that it took to get there, and all the learning that happened along the way.