What Gardening Teaches Children

I enjoy gardening.  Personally, I deal with anxiety and depression, gardening has become a strong, stable point helping to keeping my anxiety at bay.  Beyond that, gardening has also helped me to keep costs down for our groceries, while providing healthy food for my family.

While gardening these last few years, I’ve watched and learned a few things that I’ve began to pass onto my kids.

It’s okay to dirty.
Last year, my kids were playing outside while my husband and I worked in preparing the garden.  As we prepped, they ran around throwing balls, playing on the swing set, and running after each other.  My, then, two year old son, picked up a rock to help me in prepping the garden.  Once he tossed it in the pile, he looked at his hand and said, “Ew, dirt.”

I grew up on a diary farm and we came inside dirty a lot when we were little.  It really wasn’t a big deal.  And I came from a family of girls.  I always assumed little boys would be even more into playing with dirt.  It threw me off to have this little person look down and say “Ew.”

We are very much a hand-sanitize society.  I can be that way myself as a parent.  Gardening with my kids has taught them to get dirty.  It washes off in the bath.  A little bit of dirt can help you learn to play and use your imagination.  Many times, getting dirty is part of hard work.

20170911_183638.jpgHard Work
In March and April we begin garden prep.  Each year is equivalent or harder than the previous.  Mainly because we have new items, increase the garden, start a new section or upgrade the current equipment.

The prep takes weeks.  This year, we more than doubled our garden size, and added “mulch” from our chickens, added a new durable fence.  One of the longest processes is removing rocks.  This process takes hours that we spread over days, plus the other work we’ve done.  Our kids see our commitment to the prep work and start to help each time to help.

When they ask if we are done, the answer is, “Are the rocks gone?”  When they see more, they know it’s not.

We’ve become such a convenience driven society that some of the simple skills have fallen to the side.  Teaching your kids to grow their own food is a simple yet profound way to show them that they can take care of themselves, even under rough circumstances.

In today’s world, we expect immediate results.  We’ve become the world of sprinters.  But there is still a need for long distant runners.  Kids need to be taught that not everything comes to us instantly.  We need to wait and keep working (in this case tilling, weeding and nurturing the plants).  Plants will grow in their time, and we need to keep working and moving.

Our kids have had days where few plants seem to change.  They are excited to run to the garden, only to find everything appears the same as the day before.  But when flowers appear, or first fruits, it’s so exciting for them.  Their patience is growing along with our garden.

Healthy Eating
I have two very different children.  A little girl who doesn’t try much, but will eat most cooked vegetables.  And a little boy who will eat any vegetable, preferably raw.  What we have noticed, is that when the kids see items grow from seeds or seedlings, they want to try it more often.

There is something about eating directly from the garden that is fun.  Not to mention the anticipation that comes while you they keep seeing the vegetables grow.  It also becomes a health lesson as we watch the items grow.  They ask questions about the crop, and I attempt to sneak information in about it.  What it takes like, color, do you cook it or eat it raw, can our chickens eat it, etc.

As the vegetables grow, it gives them a chance to understand how some items, like broccoli, really only produce once.  But how tomatoes produce a lot.   Or how the plants pull water up to them or how weeds hurt the plants.  It gives us a chance to teach them the scientific basis on their level.

Not to mention, as the plants begin to grow, the kids like to check our harvest each day.


One of my daughter’s favorite flowers in our garden, that of a red potato plant.

Love of Outdoors
The more kids spend outside exploring and finding activities they love, there is more of a likelihood they’ll find a reason they enjoy spending time outside.  Even though my kids aren’t always gardening along side me, they do spend a lot of time outside while I’m gardening.  It give them a chance to explore and use their imaginations.

Like many people, we’ve grown an abundance of items.  Many vegetables are extremely prolific, and by the end of summer your stocked.  Why let it go to waste?  We can bless the people around us, neighbors and family with fresh food (Growing Community in Your Garden), all while teaching your children how simple acts can help those around us.

As my children grow, I hope that they’ll treasure the time they had outside while our family gardened. Maybe they will even do what I’ve done and try to ensure their kids understand its benefits as well.  And if they don’t, I can always teach my grandchildren.


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