Gardening is not just great for children’s growing brains, but for developing motor skills and introducing concepts such as science and healthy eating. It is also great for us parents – getting us out in the fresh air, which does wonders for stress levels!
While gardening can conjure up feelings of needing a ‘green thumb’ or having a large, sprawling backyard a great way to get started gardening with your kids is to start small! Try a small raised garden bed, or find a little corner of yard and plant some herbs, a tomato vine or maybe some peas, zucchinis, cucumbers or pumpkins.
While it may look like your kids are just getting super messy, they’re also learning some important things while they’re tending to their garden. Watching their garden grow can prompt some interesting thoughts and questions. They may ask ‘How do the plants drink water?’, ‘Why do the plants need the sun?’, ‘How do the plants grow’ and much more. Soon this thirst for knowledge and curiosity will spread to other areas of their life.
First Five Forever recommends that parents work with their child’s innate curiosity to help build their language skills. Asking and answering questions about a shared activity is a great way to build up conversation and communication skills as well as their vocabulary. Talk about what you’re doing as you’re doing it and get them involved. Soon they’ll be ‘propagating’, ‘mulching’ and ‘harvesting’ with the best of them!
Gardening is also a great way to have uncomplicated family time. It gives you time to relax and connect while children gain a sense of purpose, responsibility and care for the environment. Studies have shown that children that have contact with soil through digging and planting have improved moods, better learning experiences and decreased anxiety.
Then there’s the benefit of growing and eating your own produce. Kids will get a big kick out of eating that cucumber that they grew themselves! Create a menu together with your produce and enjoy eating it together as a family.
Your local library is a great source of gardening inspiration. Sunshine Coast Council Libraries have a range of gardening books that are perfect for kids. Here is a selection of their recent gardening titles:
The Kew Garden’s children’s cookbook by Joe Archer and Caroline Craig. This contains growing instructions for a kitchen garden.
My first gardening book: 35 easy and fun projects for budding gardeners
Gardening for beginners by Emily Bone and Abigail Wheatley
The nitty-gritty gardening book: fun projects for all seasons by Kari Cornell
The children’s garden: loads of things to make & grow by Matthew Appleby
Once your garden is established and you’ve got some homegrown produce to play with, why not get the kids involved in the kitchen creating a menu with their fresh vegetables and herbs. Again, the library is the place to go for a range of cookbooks for kids. A few great suggestions are:
The forest feast for kids: colorful vegetarian recipes that are simple to make by Erin Gleeson
I quit sugar with Sarah Wilson kids' cookbook: easy and fun sugar-free recipes for your little people! by Sarah Wilson and Rob Palmer
The Pokémon cookbook: easy & fun recipes by Maki Kudo
Kindy kitchen: where fruit and vegies come to life by Jessica Rosman