Written By: Gwen Lewis
When I was a little girl, the extent of my gardening experience was being sent into the yard to trim the hedges and pull weeds when my sisters and I were arguing and driving our mother crazy. As I grew older, I was forbidden to get anywhere near the lawnmower due to my father’s horrific childhood accident resulting in two lost toes. Needless to say, this combination of factors was not a good way to encourage a love for gardening or working in the yard. I actually avoided any kind of yard work like the plague for most of my adolescence.
This all changed once I became a parent. When my eldest daughter was in preschool, they made the obligatory painted flower pots with violets for Mother’s Day. She loved pushing her tiny fingers into the soil and planting the flowers, and she was so proud of her work. As she moved into kindergarten, she graduated to a class garden. She would come home so excited and happily talking about planting the seeds, watering the garden, and then, oh the joy, when broccoli and carrots started sprouting. When she came home talking about the cole slaw she tried with their homegrown cabbage, I was sold. I understood this was something we could do together that would provide many benefits.
The first was time spent together. From the trips to the gardening store to select seed packets and seedlings to washing and cleaning our vegetables to cook for dinner, every moment was precious. She loved getting to choose which vegetables we would grow, and she was absolutely overjoyed when she discovered we could plant our own strawberries. She would chatter incessantly about what we were doing, asking “why?” all along the way. Without realizing it, I was giving her regular science and nutrition lessons. At the same time, we were connecting, laughing, and smiling while we worked. It is so easy for parents and children to disconnect and do their own things. Gardening is an excellent way to stay engaged and share a passion. It is not a one time thing that covers an afternoon, and then it’s done. It’s daily watering, checking for weeds, monitoring growth, and so on. It’s an automatic way to keep your child engaged in an activity with you.
The second benefit was letting her get her hands dirty.We spend so much time telling our kids to clean up, wash their hands, and not make a mess. Playing in the dirt was the time that it was okay for her to get dirty. She could explore with her own two hands and learn what the earth felt like, how slimy worms are, and how velvety a leaf can feel. Kids learn best when they are actively engaged with hands-on learning, actually doing instead of just listening.
At the same time, they can develop both fine and gross motors skills which are important to their overall muscular development and dexterity that help with our everyday movements.Over the years, her little brother and sister came along to join us in our gardening. It was an amazing experience to see them all work together at their different levels of development. When the youngest was able to grasp seeds and plant them, my son was busy trying to dig holes deep enough for the starter plants, and my original gardening partner was filling the watering can and determining which growth was a weed and which was a new sprout. The kids were relaxed and having fun, working together in cooperation, and breathing fresh air.
They were getting physical activity and learning the responsibility of caring for another living thing. They loved trying new vegetables and were more willing to eat them when they had grown them with their own hard work, and they were learning all along the way.
The benefits have continued as they have grown into young adults. We’ve had countless gardening projects over the years beyond our garden in the yard. We had a ladybug garden party one year for a birthday, multiple science projects involving growing things, an herb garden planted for Mother’s Day, and just this summer, my son planted his first garden at his own home.
What started as an experimental project with my first child has turned into a lifetime of wonderful family memories.
About Gwen Lewis
Gwen Lewis is a writer who lives in California. She has been in the health and lifestyle industry for years and loves writing on this topic to give tips from experience. In her free time she loves to stay active and has just taken on learning how to surf.
If you don’t have an outdoor garden you can check this small gardening project you can do with them indoors: Miniature Gardening For Kids