Gardening has been proven time and time again to be hugely beneficial for kids’ development. From developing a greater sense of self-worth, to soaking up vitamin D, gardening is a worthwhile activity for kids of all ages. Most of all, gardening offers opportunities for education that will change your kids’ understanding of the earth, growing, food, and more.
Here are the most valuable educational opportunities in the garden, plus 5 science lesson ideas for your little growers courtesy of Grow Pro Beka Rich.
Life Lessons From the Garden
No matter the age, gardening will teach something important. These particular lessons are extremely valuable and difficult to teach to young kids. Being in the garden with kids can open the opportunity for education by you, the parent or guardian.
“Getting outdoors and surrounding yourself in nature is so important for the human brain to be able to reduce anxiety, increase creativity, and promote relaxation.”Beka Rich
Understanding of Food
In today’s society, a kid may think food seems to magically appear in grocery stores. Gardening offers a deeper understanding of where food comes from and how much work it takes to grow it — on human labor’s end and on the earth’s part. This offers you, as a parent or guardian, opportunities to discuss food sustainability, factory-farming, and processes like energy exchange and photosynthesis.
Learning to Take Risks
Risk-taking is one of the core skills of a successful life. Anytime you cannot guarantee the outcome, you take a risk. Taking risks and identifying good risks is a developed skill. A garden is a great way for a young child to “take a risk” since they can’t ensure a successful harvest, but the stakes are low.
As they grow, they will understand that sometimes the risk is really really worth it. And, if they fail, they’ll come to understand that there is still something worthwhile to gain from the experience.
“Gardening is fun and it’s one big experiment. It teaches you patience, and it teaches you that not everything’s perfect — and that’s ok.”Beka Rich
The Joy of Hard Work
The value and satisfaction that comes from working hard — regardless of what the reward ends up looking like — is an extremely hard lesson to teach young children. A garden takes work. If you require your children to help you tend to their garden daily and regularly, they will be engaged in good, hard work that leads to a good end. Then, their fresh harvest reward will be even sweeter and satisfying.
As with all things, circumstances may change and affect the result of your garden. Maybe a bad spring storm comes in a destroys your tomatoes. Even if your kids don’t get the successful reward of a harvest, they will still have found joy and satisfaction in the journey and the hard work.
Developing Problem-Solving Skills
One of the great things about growing is that every day is a new adventure. New pests come to roam, leaves wilt, storms arrive, and more.
A good gardener looks at their garden new every day and offers it what it needs — and this does not always align with what it needed yesterday.
As you grow with your kids, let them help you solve your garden’s issues! If pests arrive, ask them: what are good solutions to deter snails?
If your plant starts to wilt, ask your child: what might the plant need?
Through gardening, kids learn to identify problems and brainstorm solutions.
Value of Nurture and Care
Nothing is more valuable than teaching your kids to cultivate caring and nurturing spirits. Gardens need humans to survive.
As such, putting your kid in charge of a garden teaches them the result of offering something (or eventually someone) care, as well as helps them enjoy the feeling nurturing gives them.
“Nature is very forgiving if you are patient. There are many opportunities to adjust, correct, or start over, which is such a gift to learn and apply to all aspects of life. I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty of an imperfect but thriving plant even more than the perfect ones because I can see the journey that plant and its’ grower have taken to get to a healthy place. “
Deeper Understanding of Science
Since gardening is an earth-based, science-based activity, there are a plethora of options to offer science lessons to your kids. From biodiversity, to photosynthesis, to ecosystems, pollinators, and more, the garden is a perfect opportunity to talk about and identify scientific systems in the world.
Science Lessons Ideas
If you want to maximize your kid’s academic gains while they garden, try these fun and easy science lessons.
Observation and Log
First, choose something to observe: ecology, botany, entomology, microbiology — the options are endless!
Then, start a daily log to document changes in your garden’s environment, whether that’s the physical changes of the plant itself, the bugs that are attracted to the garden, or how often you water. Take detailed notes, pictures, measurements, etc.
At the end of each month, go back and review the changes day-to-day.
How could this connect to shifts in the weather?
Once you’ve had your harvest, sit with your child and review the log. Talk about the growing process as a whole and discuss what you and they have learned.
Nothing is too simple!
Gardening is the perfect time to talk about true nutrition — and how the need for good nutrition is not unique to humans. All living things need energy, and there is a great exchange of energy between a variety of organisms to produce something as large as plants.
This video from PBS discusses this well and in-depth, perfect for the little grower in your life.
Once you’ve harvested, be sure to seal the lesson off by eating your fresh veggies!
Make it fun and accessible for them. If they only like pizza, put your fresh arugula harvest atop a pizza.
Pollinator Lesson and Activity
Pollinators are an invaluable and understated part of a garden.
Hummingbirds, bees, earthworms, and more all play a valuable part in making a harvest come to be. Create a lesson and activity surrounding a pollinator so your child can learn more.
First, offer them options and let them choose a pollinator they feel passionately about (preferably one that affects your garden in your climate). Then, find information on said pollinator and talk it through with them, including the pollinator’s garden role, varieties, life stages, and food.
Then, we suggest you create a pollinator home — whether that’s a bug motel, birdhouse, worm farm, or something unique you’ve made up. It’s such a delight to see all the pollinators use and enjoy your creation!
Video Resources for Young Grower
When paired with physical practice, videos are a great tool for children. PBS Learning Media has a slew of video resources about various garden-related topics. When they have a question about how their garden grows, offer a video in return.
Botanical Garden Coloring
For especially young kids, keep your science lesson simple! There’s nothing wrong with simply talking them through basic observations about plants and offering them a coloring activity. The US Botanical Garden has a variety of plant coloring pages available for free use on their website.
Tips for Parents
Beka Rich offers, “Play to their interests!” If they like food, learn to grow their in-season favorites together. If they are young, grow a sensory garden to teach them new feels, smells, shapes. If they are into certain animals (mammals, birds, bugs) that might visit your yard, learn about the animal’s habitat needs for food and shelter and design a plan for how to provide those needs to attract that animal and enjoy more visits.
The opportunities are endless, but having fun and following your interests is the best place to start.