Planting Seeds & Blossoming Kids: Why You Should Incorporate Kids in Gardening

Guest Post by: Devon M. Whalen,co-founder of Green Whale

For some of you, the concept of gardening with your children is a no-brainer! We love that.  But my husband and I are suburbanites who didn’t grow up in families that gardened, which made the decision to garden with our children a more challenging one.  Firstly, it didn’t immediately dawn us as something we should do. And secondly, we weren’t sure what we were doing! 

In fact, the only time I had attempted to grow anything other than an occasional potted plant—that promptly died of neglect—was when I was about four years old and my mother had just read me the book The Carrot Seed.  Of course, I wanted to grow a carrot like the character in the book. So, with the help of my mom and my Babci— the Polish-American word for grandmother—I planted a carrot seed and waited for it to grow.  I was really proud when I pulled my carrot from the ground by its leafy greens.  I never even questioned the ease with which it came up or how clean it was. It wasn’t until many years later that I learned that a deer had eaten my carrot seedling and my caregivers had lovingly purchased a green-topped carrot and buried it for me to pick. Clearly, I am not much of a gardener.

But I want to be.

Because I like the idea of growing our own produce. 

I love that it cuts out the transportation emissions and the packaging involved with buying produce at the grocery store.  I like that I can control what is used as pest deterrent so that I know our produce is non-toxic.  I just all around support the idea of gardening as a way to honor the planet.

As a mother, it is important to me that I include my children in this journey to learn more about gardening. I want to show my children the value of learning new things and what that entails. It means that they’ll be witness to our challenges and failures.  They will watch as we learn from our mistakes.  For my family, gardening gives us such a beautiful opportunity to create a structure of learning where we aren’t experts. Rather, we’re learning in cooperation with our children.  But even if you have already learned a lot and aren’t able to guide your children through the mistakes, they can still benefit greatly from being included in gardening—regardless of their age. My girls are only in pre-school, but there are still so many ways that their involvement can benefit them. Here are a few highlights of the benefits of including kids in gardening: 

Nurture Connection to Nature.

They have an opportunity to connect with nature.  Research suggests that a child’s connection with nature is correlated with greater environmental knowledge (Barrable, 2019, as well as pro-environmental behaviors and happiness (Barrera-Hernández et al, 2020; Krepelkova et al, 2020). 

Increase Knowledge & Skills 

Gardening can help your child learn motor skills (digging, pincer-gripping the seeds, watering, etc.) and can gain knowledge about the plant’s lifecycle, the role of worms and pollinators, animals who eat vegetables, and so much more! 

Empower Children

Gardening also gives you an opportunity to empower your children by giving them responsibility.  Assign age-appropriate tasks and watch them blossom right along with your plants.

Encourage Healthy Habits

Engaging in gardening has been shown to support physical activity (Dymont & Bell, 2008).  This may be a real benefit for children who aren’t naturally inclined to active or athletic play.  Additionally, growing produce has been linked to improve young people’s food consciousness and eating habits (Libman, 2007), by encouraging them to eat more vegetables (Langellotto & Gupta, 2012).

There are some fantastic reasons to involve kids in the gardening process. However, this can seem challenging for families that (1) do not feel confident in their gardening skills and (2) do not have land in which to develop a garden.  The good news is that there are lots of resources for learning to garden online to help you gain basic knowledge before practicing your new skills.  For those who do not have a land, there are also a plethora of resources about container gardening. You can grow herbs on windowsills, plant vegetables in pots on your patio, or grow vertical gardens on small properties.  The important thing is to remember to include your little ones in the adventure so they can learn everything there is to learn from you.  If you’re interested in learning more about how to incorporate your children in gardening activities, visit the blog post Gardening with Kids from Green Whale, LLC.

References: 

Barrable, A. (2019). Refocusing environmental education in the early years: A brief introduction to a pedagogy for connection. Education sciences, 9(1), 61.

Barrera-Hernández, L. F., Sotelo-Castillo, M. A., Echeverría-Castro, S. B., & Tapia-Fonllem, C. O. (2020). Connectedness to nature: its impact on sustainable behaviors and happiness in children. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 276.

Dyment, J. E., & Bell, A. C. (2008). Grounds for movement: green school grounds as sites for promoting physical activity. Health Education Research23(6), 952-962.

Langellotto, G. A., & Gupta, A. (2012). Gardening increases vegetable consumption in school-aged children: A meta-analytical synthesis. HortTechnology22(4), 430-445.

Libman, K. (2007). Growing youth growing food: How vegetable gardening influences young people’s food consciousness and eating habits. Applied Environmental Education and Communication6(1), 87-95.

Yost, B., & Chawla, L. (2009). Benefits of gardening for children. Fact Sheet3.

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