There are many different benefits of gardening for children. Young children learn best with hands-on activities, so gardening allows them to learn about the world around them. Gardening may also have additional benefits for children, including an increase in self-understanding and the ability to work as part of a team.
Making Learning Fun
What kid doesn’t enjoy playing in the dirt and then watching plants grow? Even though gardening seems to be just plain fun, the child will learn about the world around them and how things work.
For example, through gardening, your child will learn that a plant needs sun, water and warm temperatures to grow. These basic science skills may translate into higher science skills later in their school career. As the child grows, you can introduce topics such as chemistry when talking about ways to rid a garden of pests and teach food safety through organic gardening.
Gardening forces one to develop patience. It takes time and effort to coax a seed from the ground and into a flowering plant or food-producing endeavor. Day after day the child will need to pull weeds, water plants, offer natural fertilizers and wait for that plant to break through the ground and then grow and develop.
However, patiently waiting will also teach your child that with effort and hard work there are rewards. The first time that tomato plant bears fruit, your child will realize the result of his efforts to coax that plant to thrive.
Get Closer to Family
Gardening together can strengthen family bonds. Many families are looking for ways to spend more quality time together unplugged from television, smartphones and other electronics.
Gardening provides the perfect escape from modern life. You can even learn together about different types of plants, which ones are the hardiest and which ones your family enjoys the most.
Children are more likely to eat vegetables they grow themselves. Research recipes using the veggies that you pick out of your garden and teach your child about the different nutrients the produce contains.
In addition to healthier eating, gardening is a light form of exercise that can get your little couch potatoes up and move. Sixty-four percent of children play outside less than once a week. Gardening can help combat that.
Learn New Things
Gardening can incorporate many different subjects and enhance learning. It may even encourage children to experiment with different solutions to gardening problems.
Recently it was discovered that air compressors can be used for weeding. Blasting ground-up fruit pits onto weeds kills them without the use of heavy pesticides that might harm your family if ingested.
Children are some of the world’s best investigators, so give them time in the garden where they can explore and develop the skills necessary to make their generation’s biggest discoveries.
Since crops tend to ripen all at one time, most garden plants produce more fruit and vegetables than a family can eat. This gives your family the opportunity to share the extra food with family, friends, neighbors or local food banks.
Teach your children to share their surplus, and it is a lesson that will stay with them throughout their lives. Gardening can also be a philanthropic pursuit. You may even want to participate in a community garden to further reinforce working as a team and giving away extra food.
Becoming More Responsible
Depending upon the age of your child, you can hand over some or all of the responsibilities of gardening to them. Although you want your child to develop a sense of accomplishment by successfully growing plants, it is also a good lesson to teach that if your child forgets their chore of watering those plants, they might wither and die. Nothing teaches responsibility faster than seeing the consequences of failing to complete the necessary tasks.
There are many benefits to gardening with children, but probably one of the biggest is the memories you’ll build together. You may start a lifelong love of gardening for your child, or at least an appreciation for plants.
Outdoor education is a growing trend mostly for preschools across the country, but some outlying schools are implementing it as part of the K-12 curriculum.
For instance, there’s a small town in Michigan where every day — snow, sleet or rain — the children go for a walk outside. Sometimes, if the weather is right, they will ski or snowshoe. What the teachers there say is most crucial, however, is that the kids get outside and into the fresh air before the day begins. Their mile-long activity is perhaps one reason so many students and teachers embrace the local school.
The little school in Big Bay, Michigan, and others around the country, may be on to something.
How Exploring Nature Encourages Education
Rather than spending time in a traditional classroom with books, videos and the internet as learning tools, some schools are creating “outdoor classrooms.” Outdoor education teaches children by exposing them to a direct experience — contact with nature. Demonstration models are abundant, from weather stations, renewable energy experiments and water flow systems, children learn science hands-on by playing outside.
Exploration of any kind expands the growing minds of children and makes them more prepared for learning throughout their educational experience. Perhaps that’s even more crucial in today’s world, where educators must compete with screens of all kinds to grab their students’ attention. But in addition, outdoor education reveals an organic sense of interdisciplinary studies since in nature, all life is dependent on each other.
5 Ways Outdoor Education Benefits Children
Using nature as a tool for exploration teaches children about respect for the outdoors, for crucial wildlife habitats and for the delicate ties that bind every living thing.
Consider these five surprising things about outdoor education:
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, school-aged children who play outside were much less likely to suffer from near-sightedness, also called myopia.
An alarming number of children in the United States have myopia. Though the exact reason why is unclear, kids who play outside regularly have better vision than those who primarily play inside.
Improved Social Skills
Bullying has become endemic in our school systems, and reports of bullying that lead to suicide often make the headlines. Though not an answer alone to this serious issue, some experts suggest that unstructured play while young helps children develop stronger social skills.
As explained by a school that engages in outdoor education, being outside allows kids to have enough freedom to explore some of these complex dynamics.
Research has provided plenty of evidence that being physically active is a stress-reducer, and children are constantly moving when they are out exploring nature. But it looks like there may be more to it than just being outside.
Exposure to nature itself decreases anxiety in humans, which makes sense. Breathing is a natural way to remain calm, and trees are the main source that gives humanity the oxygen to breathe.
The calm of the outdoors seems to improve focus in children. In fact, just 20 minutes outside can help kids with ADHD concentrate better. Once kids learn how to focus, it becomes a life-long skill that can aid their entire educational experience.
Focus isn’t something that’s easily taught, so when educators leverage something as accessible as time outside to help, it can transform a child’s life.
More Vitamin D
Vitamin D is like a wonder drug — it boosts the immune system, promotes stronger bones, decreases the likelihood of some cancers and even lessens the risk of type 1 diabetes. Though there are some foods with vitamin D — salmon, egg yolks, mushrooms — none of them are vitamin-rich. It’s added to milk, too, but too much milk isn’t good for anyone.
Being in the sunshine provides the richest, natural source of vitamin D, and it’s completely free. The more we learn about it, the more crucial we’re finding it is for growing bodies.
Blur the Lines Between Learning and Playing
Learning should be fun and engaging, but educators don’t often see the potential to make it fun, and it’s sitting right at their doorstep. It’s not hard to foster a sense of joy in nature — kids love spending time outside. When education becomes linked with exciting, outdoor activities, the lines between what they have to learn and what is fun to learn will inevitably become blurred, naturally creating lifelong learners.
Though many schools embracing outdoor education approach it as a classroom without walls where children’s primary learning tool is the outdoors, it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach. Schools can practice taking several outdoor breaks throughout the day, create lesson plans around an outdoor activity or plan field trips that involve nature — and children can reap the benefits of spending time outdoors.
When schools stop using recess as a way to punish children — poor behavior means less time outside — and treat the outdoors as a necessity rather than an option, then everyone wins. Kids are naturally more focused, less anxious and overall happier when they can spend some time learning and playing outdoors.