How does gardening food serve your child's developmental needsJun 26, 2022
To be honest with you for me gardening with kids started as an act of activism and not as a selfish act that would benefit ME immediately. But I didn't know that I was up for a huge pleasant surprise that kept on surprising for years. It all started with the social justice and environmental activist inside me. I asked the question, why do our kids not learn how to grow their own food? And being a positive person I jumped into teaching gardening to my own kids and then to their friends at school.
What a nerd! I know!
But gardening blew my mind as a mother, as soon as I got my kids involved. And it continues to do so to this very day! The amount of immediate personal benefits gardening brought to the mother in me was unbelievable!
Yes… I made this my life work because of my social justice side but it constantly and immensely satisfied my selfish side as a mom. And that's what I want to talk about here.
Started this work in 2013 by opening a small after-school program in my daughter's school, and have been growing food with kids by supporting their parents and teachers ever since. And full-time since 2014 when I quit my corporate job and focused entirely on this work.
And I have talked and written (mostly talked as I am more of a talker than a writer!) a lot about the importance of teaching the next generation how to grow their own food so they are empowered etc. But I don't think I've ever actually talked about my personal experience when it comes to the immediate benefits of gardening with your children.
The other day, I was reading an article by the Michigan State University extension on the topic of the benefits of gardening on children's development, mostly toddlers, and even though I completely agree with all that was in that article, I think it is essential for parents and grandparents like you to know that these immediate developmental benefits don't just stop at that age!
Yes, as a toddler the garden provides physical activity even if it's indoors. The locomotor skills that they develop, the body management, the object control, and the usage of their large muscles when they actually move around the garden carrying tools contribute significantly to their physical development.
Just being outdoors inhaling the fresh air and exposure they receive to sunlight, insects, animals, and the plants they grow significantly expands their developmental opportunities in their otherwise closed-up and bubble-wrapped universe.
Gardening provides opportunities for sensory stimulation, observing touching, and working with seeds of all kinds, sizes, and colors, touching the soil that research has shown increases happiness, and then the plants of course with all the different textures, tones, colors… and also aromas and sounds, the sounds of the breeze, the insects and animals, etc.
The possibilities of sensory stimulation are endless in the garden.
And all of that aside, when they grow an edible garden, they get to taste test the veggies they grew right off the vine which again is another sensory stimuli.
And research shows that children who've been involved in growing the vegetables are much more likely to try them. Talk about immediate benefits for parents! ;)
But the benefits of gardening do not stop at toddler age. I've been working with schools growing school gardens essentially growing food and have developed school gardening programs and lesson plans that connect to all kinds of school topics from literacy, math, and science all the way to arts and social studies.
Not only that, I've seen and experienced the benefits of growing food gardens with my own kids from when my older was in elementary school and my younger was a toddler all the way to today, 2022 when my older is off to university and my youngest is in her final years of primary school.
There is just so much to learn in a garden and so many skills that help develop a whole human.
In literacy, just knowing the names of the different plants, vegetables, herbs, and fruit, not from books but from sensory hands-on experience itself provides a lot of benefits. Reading seed pack labels, researching different plant needs, labeling plants you are growing, journaling, data tracking, tracking the seasons, and making connections between nature and our food, the cognitive skills, and abilities that come with remembering things and analyzing things predicting things, planning for the future! The benefits are countless and outside the patience of this blog.
If you take one thing out of reading this blog, I would love for it to be this…
You need to start growing food gardens with your kids now and you need to continue doing it for years!
Simply because, why not?! There is no other activity on the planet, at least that I know of, that could provide so many authentic, hands-on, social, emotional, intellectual, and developmental benefits for your children of all ages. And at the same time, is doable, requires little investment, not a lot of space (contrary to what everyone thinks), and could be done right at home even in an apartment, on a balcony, or on a window ledge (provided there is sunlight), and most importantly, it's a lot of fun and increases the quality time you have with your kids, which in turn creates amazing memories that they will cherish for the rest of their lives.
I know what you are most probably thinking if you are like most parents or grandparents…
But I don't know how to!
I have never ever grown a thing in my life!
But I don't have the time!
But I don't have the space!
But what if things don't grow well?
But what if things grow too well? What are we going to do with the extra plants we don't have space for or the extra food with can't eat?
But what if my child isn't into it?
And a lot of other what-ifs.
The most entertaining one that I hear a lot: But I'm a plant killer there's no way I can grow a thing with my kids!
And to all that I'd say…
I hear ya!
I didn't know how just a few short years ago…
I grew up in apartments and I had not grown a thing in my life before I decided that this was important and just got started…
I found out that time spent with my kids in the garden is the most productive of all…
I grew up in the smallest places and helped other parents grow in the weirdest spaces successfully…
Did things always grow well? Heck no! But did that take away from the benefits gardening had for my kids? No! Those failures actually added to the learning.
And when things grew too well we gave away and donated and gifted which expanded the good our garden created to our bigger social circles.
So I'm here to tell you, if I could do it, you can too.
The difference between you and me is, that I had no one to teach me or help me or send me material and guides and plans. So I had to go learn it and do it the hard way. But you have me! And I have for you the Oasis Box and the Oasis Classroom and the Oasis Summer Camp, etc.
Go check them out, and get on the wait lists. Put your fears aside and move into the possibilities.
You can do this and I can help!
Love of Growth,