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Gardening for children

Gardening for kids has been proven to not only make children happier, but helps them to learn better, cope with stress and understand life, health and nature. Children learn through action. By doing and playing, they absorb knowledge and information and come to an understanding of the world around them through all of their senses.  Gardening offers the perfect opportunity to create an awareness of the wonder of nature, to install a sense of caring for it, to learn basic skills, to get those bodies moving and to have good healthy fun!

Children learn from growing things

People of all ages can enjoy gardening, but children in particular will have lots of fun and gain special benefits. Gardening is educational and develops new skills including:

  • Responsibility – from caring for plants

  • Understanding – as they learn about cause and effect (for example, plants die without water, weeds compete with plants)

  • Self-confidence – from achieving their goals and enjoying the food they have grown

  • Love of nature – a chance to learn about the outdoor environment in a safe and pleasant place

  • Reasoning and discovery – learning about the science of plants, animals, weather, the environment, nutrition and simple construction

  • Physical activity – doing something fun and productive

  • Cooperation – including shared play activity and teamwork

  • Creativity – finding new and exciting ways to grow food

  • Nutrition – learning about where fresh food comes from.

Getting children interested in gardening

Some suggestions to get children involved and interested in creating a garden include:

  • Keep it simple.

  • Give children their own garden space. (This does not have to be big. You can start with a large container or a few pots.)

  • Involve older children in the planning and design of the garden.

  • Use lightweight, easy-to-handle, correct-sized tools and garden equipment.

  • Encourage children to dig in the dirt. (Younger children love making mud pies)

  • Grow interesting plants such as sunflowers, corn, pumpkins, tomatoes and strawberries.

  • Use a trellis or teepee to grow beans or sweet peas.

  • Plant flowers that attract butterflies, ladybirds and other interesting insects or birds.

  • Make a scarecrow.

  • Install a water feature, a birdbath or a sundial.

  • Set up a worm farm.

  • Visit community gardens, children’s farms or botanic gardens for ideas.

Child safety in the garden

To make the garden safe for children:

  • Select the correct-sized tool.

  • Keep sprays and fertilisers out of reach.

  • Do not use chemicals. Garden organically whenever possible.

  • Provide safe storage for equipment and tools.

  • Secure fences and gates.

  • Provide shade in summer with umbrellas or shade cloth.

  • Make sure that where it’s appropriate, children wear a hat, sunscreen, suitable clothing and gumboots.

  • Do not leave buckets of water unattended around very young children and toddlers.

Activities for a child in the garden

Choose activities that suit the child’s age. Suggestions include:

  • Watering the garden

  • Digging

  • Picking flowers

  • Planting vegetables, fruits and flowers in the correct season

  • Feeding the worms and using the ‘worm tea’ from the worm farm as fertiliser

  • Picking vegetables and fruits when they are ready to eat

  • Preparing healthy food, such as making salads and preparing school lunches

  • Craft activities using harvested seeds, plants and flowers

  • Composting, recycling and mulching

  • Weeding

  • Gathering seeds and dried flowers

  • Deadheading flowers

  • Preparing the soil with organic fertiliser

  • Replanting and re-potting.

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