If you’re looking for ways to encourage your kids to eat a healthy and balanced diet, gardening can be an important tool. Don’t be intimidated; you don’t need a large yard. A small raised bed or growing a few edibles in existing landscaping will work just fine. To grow beans or other edible vines, lean a trellis against a wall. If you don’t have a lot of outdoor space, a few containers and soil in a sunny spot can be an easy way to grow herbs or lettuce, or some sweet cherry tomatoes that your kids won’t be able to resist. Plants like zucchini, radishes and herbs are fairly easy to grow without a lot of fuss. The much bigger return is how planting a garden can affect not only your child’s body but also their brain and soul.
How gardening with kids can affect their BRAIN:
One study showed that children who participated in gardening projects scored higher in science achievement than those who did not. The wonder of seeing a garden grow may spark your kids to ask questions like: Why do the plants need sun? How does the plant “drink” water? Why are worms good for the plants? Soon you will be talking about soil composition, photosynthesis and more! (See Part II of this blog for a conversation to have with your kids when you’re planning your garden). Add a little math while gardening with your kids by measuring how much plants are growing from week to week or counting the flowers on each plant. Add to the experience of gardening with books about plants, trips to a botanical garden or garden store, or a photo journal of the plants that you are growing.
Think of all the brain-building vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients your kids will be eating and how that will continue to boost brain development once you’ve harvested your produce. Foods like spinach, garlic and beets (which are all easy to grow) have been shown to help with cognitive function and can give your kids an advantage in their growth and development. Even if kids may not love the foods they grow at first, teach them to keep tasting and trying and to train their taste buds to enjoy the bounty of their garden.
How gardening with kids can affect their BODY:
When children participate in gardening, the fruits and vegetables that they are inspired to eat will have a positive effect on their body, but the act of gardening itself can also promote a healthy body. Kids LOVE to get their hands and feet in the dirt, which can run counter to the modern parenting style of compulsively keeping hands and surfaces cleaned and sanitized. However, getting dirty while gardening may actually strengthen a child’s immunity and overall health.
All kids benefit from the extra physical activity and sunshine they get while gardening. Activities like moving soil, carrying a heavy watering can, digging in the dirt and pushing a wheelbarrow can promote gross motor skills and overall strength for a more fit body. Plus, these activities, known as “heavy work,” have been shown to help kids stay calm and focused.
How gardening with kids can affect their SOUL:
Time in the garden allows for meaningful family connections and promotes communication skills. Planning a garden, planting the seeds and watching them grow give kids a sense of purpose and responsibility. Making sure that the plants get enough fertilizer, water and sun fosters mindfulness. The concepts learned while gardening, like composting food scraps for fertilizer or using gathered rainwater, can show kids a deep respect and responsibility for taking care of our planet.
Furthermore, studies show that when children have contact with soil during activities like digging and planting, they have improved moods, better learning experiences and decreased anxiety. Most important, the self-esteem a child gets from eating a perfect carrot that he grew himself is priceless.
Global Montessori has been offering childcare, after school care, and the Montessori method of schooling since 1988. The children encompass infants, toddlers, kindergarten and elementary school students living in and around the Langley area.