The Benefits of Gardening with Your Children
At Little Peoples Place, we’re always looking for fun and engaging ways to boost your child’s development. One of the ways that we do this is by getting kids involved in growing the food that they eat on a daily basis. This engages their senses in an outdoor setting and helps them gain an appreciation for healthy and sustainable food.
These are some of the developmental benefits that gardening offers young children:
- Helps to Develop Fine Motor Skills
For the youngest kids, any experience that involves using their hands for new projects can help them to develop better fine motor skills. The act of scooping up dirt, laying seeds in troughs and watering gardens all help little one’s develop these skills. The idea is to expose them to as many novel and enriching experiences as possible – and gardening is certainly one that’s worth exploring.
- Encourages Children to Eat Healthy Food
We’ve seen first-hand what a difference growing food makes in a child’s desire to eat vegetables. In fact, we could go on at length to offer several anecdotal examples. However, there have also been several scientific studies that back up our findings. One found that students who grow their own vegetables were five times more likely to add salad to their main meal. Something as simple as encouraging your kids to grow their own food makes them want to eat healthier food – and that’s great news for concerned parents.
- Introduces Children to the Concept of Organising and Planning Ahead
There’s much to organise and plan for in a garden. Certain seeds must be planted in certain seasons or near specific types of other plants that will support (or at least not compete with them). Gardeners must know when to expect flowers to bloom as well as what types of care are required during specific growth stages. Working in a garden teaches children to categorise, organise and plan ahead – and these skills translate directly into other aspects of life.
- Teaches Children about Responsibility
Working in a garden over the course of a season teaches children a great deal about responsibility. The plants have to be nurtured and cared for on a daily basis in order for them to stay healthy and thrive. A garden is a particularly good place for learning lessons like this, as the stakes are relatively low. Worst case scenario, the plants may wither or die if not properly looked after. That’s definitely preferable than, say, a pet becoming sick or dying as a result of not receiving the care it needs.
- Encourages Children to Wait Patiently for Rewards
Another life lesson that little one’s can take away from gardening is the virtue of patience and how it pays off over time. Kids often receive instant gratification for small tasks. This is good and normal, as it reinforces positive behaviour and helps them learn how to interact with the world around them. But it’s also important for them to learn to wait a bit longer for rewards in some cases. Daily diligence in the garden, followed by a fun and rewarding harvest underscores the reality of life: that some things are worth waiting for.
- Teaches Children Interpersonal Skills
One study of third to fifth graders in the US (8 to 11 years old) had the students take a survey of their life skills. One group of these children went on to participate in a year-long gardening programme; the other did not. After a year, both groups were surveyed again, and researchers found that the students who participated in the gardening programme reported significant increases in their ability to work in groups and in self-understanding.
- Linked to Higher Science Achievement
Another study found that older children who participated in a yearlong gardening project scored higher on science achievement tests than children who didn’t. Starting children in the garden at an early age gives them the chance to develop an early affinity for this sort of work, increasing their chances of reaping these benefits over the rest of their childhood.
Gardening and Healthy Eating Are Part of Our Learning Curriculum
We take nutrition seriously at Little Peoples Place. All of our learning centres closely follow the ‘Get Up and Grow’ Australian Dietary Guidelines, which promote healthy eating and physical activity for young children. Adhering to these guidelines means that every meal we provide for your children is both delicious and healthy. They provide your little ones with everything they need to grow healthy and strong.
But at Little Peoples Place, there’s more to mealtime than just eating healthy and nutritious food. Rather than simply heading to the supermarket to buy fresh and healthy ingredients we’ve chosen to plant our own vegetable and herb garden. Our in-house chefs prepare wholesome, freshly cooked meals on site and using ingredients from the garden. Talk about eating local!
We strongly believe that some of the most beneficial learning experiences result from teachable moments. With this in mind, we actively look for ways that that children we care for can get involved and be engaged by activities taking place at Little Peoples Place.
At our centre, children involved in preparing meals. They join us in the garden to select the ingredients that we’re going to use in upcoming meals. The kids love it – and the fact that they source these ingredients themselves means that they have a tangible role to play in the food that ends up on their plate. They’re even encouraged to serve themselves, which gives them a head start in developing those fine motor skills.