This is a guest post from Heather Griffiths.
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A garden is a magical place full of wonder.
Watching something grow from seed to food to seed again is enchanting.
Suddenly the food on your table is more than just something to consume, it is a tangible process that you have played a valuable part in every step of the way.
Add children to the garden and another layer of magic and wonder emerges as you watch your children grow into caring human beings engaged in the natural world.
Study after study shows the importance of the natural world being a part of our every day lives. Children especially benefit from time spent outdoors in the natural world. That doesn’t mean you need to plan out an extensive hike every week or move to a farm. Any engagement with the outdoors benefits both you and your children.
Starting a garden can be intimidating.
There are so many books, styles, methods, and products to get you started that it can make your head spin. Some one told me years ago when I was just considering starting my garden, “just sow your seeds and watch the magic.” And that’s exactly what I’ve done.
My first year I planted summer squash and one melon plant. It was a good way for me to just get a taste for it (and a few zucchinis). The next year I put more effort in. I still considered it to be an experiment and to just learn as much as I could. It wasn’t my goal to get a bountiful harvest, but to gain knowledge. And that’s exactly what I did. But this time I got kale, beans, spinach, squash, and more out of it.
Now I am preparing for my third year of gardening. I have a new garden bed that I can see outside my kitchen window. My compost pile is ready to be put on the garden. My seeds are patiently waiting their turn in the sun. In fact, I started a 15’x22’ garden bed from scratch for only $60.
But why garden?
And why garden with children? Wont they just destroy the garden? Trample through the newly sprouted beans and pull up plants by the roots? My experience tells me no. Children are just as amazed by the process as we are. They want to see the what a seed can become. They want to browse through the seed catalogs and day dream of spring just as much as we do. If allowed to play a part in the garden, they become invested in it and want to see it succeed. They eat vegetables straight from the garden bed before you can even say “wash that carrot!”
4 of my favorite reasons to garden with children:
Gardening Improves Nutrition. Children who grow their own food are more open to eat a wider variety of food. They want to eat the kale they planted from seed, and that carrot they have been watching tastes so much sweeter. Not to mention the fact that homegrown foods tend to be more flavorful than store bought foods. And these habits can carry on into adulthood. Children who grow their own food are more likely to be adults who care about the food they eat. And we all want our children to have a healthy relationship with food.
Gardening Develops Patience. When you’re young, a month feels like eternity. And when so much of the world offers immediate satisfaction it is hard to wait for anything. But we need to know how to wait for whats important. Our children need to know that there are things worth waiting for and a cheap, immediate substitution won’t give them the same satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.
Gardening Anchors Sense of Place. In a world where we are all trying to find where we belong, where we fit in, having a sense of place, of being rooted, is essential. When you grow your own food you develop a personal relationship with your garden. And that relationship translates into feeling connected. You begin to see your place in the world sitting in the garden and the garden becomes a reprieve. Adults and children alike will feel this effect. Gardening also reduces stress in children and adults and can help lessen symptoms of ADD and ADHD.
Gardening Enhances Cognitive Abilities. Children that grow in a garden literally grow in a garden. Gardening stimulates all the senses without being overwhelming. I’ve stopped doing sensory play bins since I began gardening. Instead I take my children into the garden and let them dig, roll, taste, smear, and generally explore with all their senses. Gardening increases focus and cognitive abilities more than a bag of dried beans or rice ever could. And because they are invested in the garden I know I can trust them to be mindful of the plants. They have yet to destroy a plant. Though there have been days when I find ALL the cherry tomatoes gone, even the green ones.
Gardening is fun and it is work.
And just as our children can grow in a garden, we too grow as adults when we garden. It is a wonderful way to spend a summer with your children. Whether you can establish a large garden bed or are limited to containers on a patio, gardening on any level will be an experience you wont regret.
From Heather: I’m a Holistic Nurturer. I do my best to create a healthy environment for all to grow and thrive in using sustainable means. I garden and home-educate. I aim to consume less and grow more as a woman. I dabble in herbalism and minimalism.