1. Engages All the Senses
Kids learn best when engaging all their senses. With gardening, kids can touch and feel the dirt, seeds and flowers, see the vibrant colors and varied sizes of the plants, hear the sound of the vegetable when it is taken from the plant, and smell the amazing scents of the flowers. Allowing all the senses to be involved helps kids understand and grasp the concept of gardening, along with all the math and scientific concepts that go along with it.
2. Encourages Healthy Eating
Eating healthy food is vital for brain and body development, but it can be hard at times to get kids to eat those fruits and veggies. By having them grow their own string beans, carrots and lettuce, they will have a sense of pride in eating what they have “created.” This, in turn, will emphasize the importance of healthy eating. Kids will soon learn to love eating strawberries, blueberries and even broccoli!
3. Enhances Fine Motor Development
Scooping up the dirt, placing the seeds in the pots and pouring the water all take fine motor control and strength. As kids garden, they develop important motor skills that will help them improve their academic skills such as writing, cutting and typing.
4. Introduces Kids to Scientific Concepts
Gardening is a wonderful introduction into the world of science, especially botany, biology and chemistry. When kids plant their first seeds, they become curious about what will happen next. They make their own hypothesis and monitor the progress each day. Without even realizing it, kids are learning the basic steps of the scientific process. As kids get older, they learn about the impact of sunlight and water on the growth of a plant. They learn which plants need more sunlight, which need less water and how long they take to grow. Gardening offers wonderful science lessons right at home!
5. Fosters Family Bonding
I have always loved to garden with my mother. In fact, it has become a spring and summer tradition of ours. This shows what a wonderful bonding effect gardening can have. Kids and parents can work together to decide what flowers and vegetables to plant and where to plant them. Families can then work together to make meals using the vegetables they have grown.
6. Teaches Responsibility
Gardening is a great way to teach kids about responsibility. Kids learn that they have to take care of their seeds each day in order for them to become healthy plants. To help, you can make a checklist that kids can use to make sure they care for their plant every day.
7. Highlights the Importance of Taking Care of the Environment
When kids garden, they realize how important it is to take care of the Earth if they want their garden to grow and produce healthy plants. It creates the perfect opportunity for parents to talk to their kids about concepts such as pollution, pesticides and recycling.
8. Develops Math Skills
There are so many teachable math moments when gardening, from measuring the soil depth to counting the seeds. You also can embed math lessons into the gardening experience. For example, your child can measure the growth of the plant and then create a graph. Kids also can measure and compare the sizes of the vegetables as well the number of petals on the flowers. Another fun lesson is to identify all the different shapes that can be found in the garden. This is a great introduction to geometry.
9. Teaches Patience
As I use the gardening process in my therapy sessions, it has become abundantly clear how important it is to have patience. Kids are used to immediate gratification; however, gardening often is a slow process. Kids have to learn to be patient when waiting for their flowers and vegetables to grow. The waiting actually makes the moment the flower or vegetable sprouts even more exciting!
10. Enhances the Ability to Plan and Organize
For those who garden regularly, you understand that planning and organizing a garden can be time consuming and somewhat of an art form. You have to know what flowers bloom during what time of year, how long it takes a seed to actually turn into a vegetable, and when is the best time to plant your seeds. Involving kids in this process helps increase their planning and problem solving skills. It also enhances their organizational strategies, which can be carried over to every facet of life.
Gardening offers wonderful and amazing opportunities for kids to play, learn and grow!
By Jessica Glenbocki, occupational therapist at LLA Therapy, which offers speech-language, physical, occupational, behavioral, and music therapy at its clinics in Fairlawn, Hudson and Medina. LLA is committed to guiding all individuals toward quality therapy solutions to improve the lives of their patients and their families in a collaborative, nurturing and supportive atmosphere. For more information, visit llatherapy.org