Robotics, music, karate, soccer—kids’ schedules these days are often packed with numerous afterschool activities. Often, there’s a method to the madness—these activities do more than develop talents or interests; these activities help children learn important life skills: responsibility, cooperation, and self-confidence, just to name a few. While parents have their choice of afterschool activities to get their child involved in, there is one activity that doesn’t require them to drive around town in the afternoon, and yet, this activity still teaches children to develop strong character traits and more.
Gardening. In a world of high-tech gadgets and trendy hobbies, gardening may not be the shiny new toy that your kids jump up and down for, but gardening teaches so many important values necessary for life. You don’t need to drive around town to get your child from one activity to another for them to learn essential character traits and skills—you can just go to your backyard or porch garden.
Among the many skills that children can learn through gardening, here are the top attributes:
Responsibility: Children need to be in charge of tasks so they can learn the value of responsibility. In gardening, children learn responsibility by taking care of the plants. Watering and tending to seeds are tasks that children can easily do and where children can learn the cause-and-effect, helping children to learn responsibility.
Patience: While it’s great that there have been so many advances in technology, the downside is that it makes some accustomed to instant gratification—if a computer takes too long to reboot or a phone app doesn’t load as quickly, frustration ensues. Gardening teaches patience—no one can rush the process; growth occurs through diligently watering and tending to the plants.
Sustainability: The word “sustainability” is a term to describe the process of food. The farm-to-table movement places an emphasis on serving or obtaining local food to decrease the carbon footprint made by transporting food. Wonder how it’s possible to buy strawberries in the wintertime? Your grocer is most likely importing them from warmer parts of the country or even from overseas. On a small scale, gardening helps children see the farm-to-table firsthand, or more accurately, the backyard-to-table process. Children become aware of sustainable practices that are necessary for food production.
Nutrition: Simply put, gardening teaches where food comes from seeds. It’s no secret that some children struggle with eating healthy food like vegetables and fruits. But studies have shown that children are more likely to taste and even like healthy food when they have a role in growing them.
Sciences: Gardening is essentially a real-world classroom of the sciences. Children are introduced to agricultural and environmental principles firsthand. That awareness helps them in their food choices, but it can also be a launch pad for a career in the agricultural sciences. For example, CEO Jai Shroff heads a company that provides products—such as seeds, harvesting tools, and other agriculturally minded technologies—to farmers to enhance their profitability of farming.
Getting Your Family Started in Gardening
To get started in gardening, you pretty much need soil and seeds—you don’t necessarily need a backyard. Gardening can be scaled down or up according to what you have room for and the age of your children. When you don’t have a garden at all, here are some ideas to help you get started.
Start Out Small
If you don’t have a backyard plot for gardening, you can start with containers—all you need is a sunny balcony. Remember to water often—containers dry out quickly, so the seeds need as much water as they could get. If possible, give each child a separate container, so each child has the opportunity to have a responsibility.
Give Them Gardening Tools
Gardening tools may not seem necessary if you have a small garden or a container garden, but a tool as simple as work gloves affirms the work your children are doing is important too. Garden spade or hoe still works well for a container garden.
Read About It
Reading children’s books about growing plants and the gardening help your family stay engaged throughout the entire process. Yes, patience is an important trait developed through tending a garden, but reading and talking about gardening help to keep the process top of mind when there isn’t much change.
Play in the Dirt
Making mud pies, digging up dirt, or just getting messy are activities that may seem like they don’t directly help with growing seeds, but they all are fun aspects of gardening that help children with the exploration of their senses.
Pick out Fast-Growing Plants
Picking out fast-growing seeds can help your children see the rewards of tending to a garden. Sunflowers tend to grow quickly, and cherry tomatoes are also a fun crop that children can pick straight from the vine to eat.
When it comes to gardening, children are growing more than seeds—they are growing their character. Cooperation, self-confidence, patience, and more are among the necessary life skills that children experience firsthand by having a garden. These tips can help you get your family started in gardening and reap the rewards of a green thumb.