When you think of growth in most facets of life, the result is more than often positive. As you learn and your knowledge grows you can feel a great sense of empowerment and achievement. Similarly, life experience can help you grow emotionally and equip you with skills and courage that you can apply many times again throughout your life.
So how can gardening even compare to emotional and personal growth?
Last weekend, as I walked out the door with my boots on, gloves in hand, gardening hat, and my mind filled with what I wanted to achieve, right behind me were my kids. My eight year old daughter turned to me and said “So where are we starting today mum?”
A garden is seen through many different lenses, be that young or old. For my kids, gardening is part of our weekend family time. It’s where we can connect in an environment we all enjoy, we can chat and catch up on the week’s events, and it’s a place where we grow food together. You know ‘real’ food.
Instilling these basic concepts in our kids at a young age helps guide basic life skills and connects them with nature so they can appreciate true life balance away from the technology of today. Thus, I created this blog post to share with you 10 reasons to start a garden with your kids so you too can instill these basic concepts.
10 Reasons to Start a Garden with Your Kids
#1 Family Time
We all know how hard it is to constantly come up with things to enjoy together as a family. Let’s face it, dad doesn’t always want to play barbies or sit at the movies watching Frozen or Peter Pan, and quite frankly neither do I. It’s also hard finding things to do that don’t cost the earth, pardon the punt, and you don’t have to drive an hour to get there, however this is actually easier than you think!
The key to creating family time in your garden is you don’t necessarily have to all be working on the same project, but if you are all outside in the same area, you can still chat and spend time together.
A perfect example of this at our house is that my daughter loves being right beside me working in the same garden bed, but my son just loves to play with water. I usually set him up near us and give him something he is genuinely interested in doing, like watering the plants with his water gun! This is hours of fun for a boy. Dad is also not far away, he is usually building something. We are all outside, working together on or in our garden.
#2 The Connection Between Nature & People
It’s hard to imagine how much life has changed through the eyes of an older Australian. When you think about how we operate in today’s society and the immediate and processed world we live in, it puts a few things back into perspective and one of those is how important it is to maintain the connect between nature and people. We need nature to survive and nature needs us just as much.
Helping our kids learn about the importance of caring for our earth and the difference we can make through simply understanding and respecting everything mother nature provides is such a beautiful thing to see evolve in your kids. I was watching my son save a worm the other day that was accidently catapulted out of the soil. He said “here you go little fella, back in the soil to work your magic”. Hearing that was a pretty proud mumma moment!
#3 Life Cycle
I cannot tell you enough about how educational gardening is. Starting plants from seed puts a hands-on-process to the life cycle. When growing from seed with kids, take the opportunity to talk with your kids about the amazing process a plant goes through in order to deliver produce that we can consume. Some of the topics you can cover include:
Appearance. Seeds come in lots of different sizes, shapes, and colours. Some are smooth and shiny, and some are coarse and flat.
Seed layers. Most seeds have an external shell which is referred to as a coat. It protects the content of a baby plant or embryo, and its food supply inside.
What a seed needs. For a seed to grow into a plant, it will need the essential such as soil, sunlight, water, the right temperature and a place to live. One of the most important things for a plant is sunlight. Here you can talk about how a plant often grows towards the light.
Progression. During the early stages of the plants emerging, talk to the kids about the different parts of the plant and what their roles are. For example the roots, leaves & stem.
The garden is full of amazing things to discover and learn about every day. Every plant in the garden has a different story and the kids are like sponges absorbing all of this new knowledge (botany). Beneficial insects that help our crops to flower through pollination, and the predator insect that are like the cavalry arriving when our plants are under attack (entomology). Not to forget the basics of horticulture which includes everything from seeds, plants, fruit, nuts, mushrooms and non-food plants.
I highly recommend adding a compost to your garden where you can discuss the amazing microorganisms that break down the compost into soil, and the smaller eco-systems that are hard at work in different environments in your garden.
They all want to do things themselves and make their own decisions, so this is a perfect situation where they can take responsibility and ownership of their very own space. With some guidance, kids can choose their own plants, grow their own flowers or food, and create a fairy or dinosaur garden within their space on their own terms.
I highly recommend they have their own gloves, tools and gardening hat, so it becomes a ritual for them to put these all on before heading out to their space.
If you can encourage a child to grow a tomato from seed, care for it until it fruits and then harvest it, you have a much better chance of them wanting to eat it.
#6 Healthy Eating / Wholefood Habits
My daughter stood in front of the cupboard the other day and said “Mum there’s no food!” Sound familiar? So I turned to her and said, that’s because food doesn’t come from the cupboard, food is grown. Now, in a perfect world, she would have replied “of course it is mum” and set off down to the veggie patch to pick a basket of strawberries. Yeah right, that only happens in the movies!
The reality is we live in a society that delivers food in a much different way than our ancestors ever thought possible. What we can do as parents, educators, teachers, bottom wipers (that ones for the mums with kids under 2 years of age), is to help our kids make informed choices as they grow up. It’s not realistic to assume we can convert kids to be organic, wholefood, non-sugar activists, but we can help them understand how awesome home grown produce really is.
When your child picks a snow pea or a tomato straight from the plant and eats it straight away, like it’s the most natural thing in the world, you know you are doing something right and it’s just another one of many reasons to start a garden with your kids
#7 Self Sufficiency Skills
It’s a hard concept to get your head around sometimes, but just imagine for a second what life would be like if we taught our kids about supply and demand at a young age. If they learned that you plant what you can consume and that going shopping for your salad meant grabbing a basket and heading out into your garden. It’s a nice though it’s it?
It all starts with little steps, but we can teach our kids about saving money through growing produce, about investing time and energy into something that gives back, and planning our meals around our output.
Just say you had an abundance of tomatoes, you can show them how they can make salads, dinners, sauces & soups without waste. Pretty cool stuff!
#8 Care for Others
Instead of riding their bikes through the garden without understanding the impact it could have, you’ll find kids can really start to appreciate nature and respect it when they learn how to garden. This skill is often carried into their daily life and in some kids, you can see a genuine transition or shift in their behaviour.
There is nothing better when instead of killing an ant they move away from it and understand that they have a place in the garden as well. One of the best things I have witnessed with my kids is there appreciation of bees.
After watching them in the pollination process, my daughter often comments on how hard they are working and what an awesome job they are doing with the flowers.
#9 Fostering Curiosity & Creativity
What can we build? How are we going to build it? What can we grow? How will it look? Encourage creativity in everything you do in the garden, from making a bird feeder, to building a sand pit, challenge their minds and let them lead. There are so many cool DIY projects you can do in the garden, and kids will expand on your suggestions and build on your ideas.
Working together as a team with hands-on-learning activities will build confidence, curiosity and imagination, not to mention instilling a feeling of worth and belonging.
Gardening is an awesome way to work your core muscle strength. Try shovelling a trailer load of soil into a garden bed and see how your stomach muscles are the next day. By simply turning over compost or even pulling out weeds will give your biceps and triceps a workout.
The best thing about garden exercise is that a day in the garden will be so much fun, and you won’t even know you are giving your muscles a workout until you feel a little sore the next day.
Next time you are thinking about something you can do with the kids, why not consider some family garden time. You will be amazed what a packet of seeds, some soil, garden tools and a place to belong will do for your entire family.
You might have green thumbs or black thumbs, it doesn’t matter. It’s what happens next that will shape your family garden life.
I hope you’ve found these 10 reasons to start a garden with your kids useful and I can’t wait for you to start creating childhood memories with your family garden.
About the Author
Rebecca Searles is the Founder of Family Garden Life. If you’re wanting a place to enrich your Australian family garden by accessing valuable resources, recipes, services & products all in the one location