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
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
Gathering seeds and dried flowers
Preparing the soil with organic fertiliser
Replanting and re-potting.