As a kid, I remember loving Saturday mornings because that is when we would visit my grandmother and spend the day gardening. My grandma was an inspiring woman with a garden providing clear evidence of her skill and creativity. Those were the days of dirty hands and feet, garden hose sprinkles, flower picking, and carefully patting new baby seeds into their brand new sleeping places while whispering my granda’s favorite wish of “sleep tight and meet you soon”.
I can’t help but wonder if it is the same for kids nowadays? Do kids experience the same magic I did as a kid, simply from gardening? Does gardening provide value to the average preschooler nowadays, or is it just a fond memory reserved for me?
I really wanted to find out more about the benefits of gardening for preschoolers, especially since I was in preschool when I was enjoying those Saturdays in the garden with my grandma. Was I benefiting in ways I did not even know about? I started doing my second most favorite thing: digging around for answers. I must admit that I was truly impressed with what I found out when delving into the benefits of gardening for small kids.
If you would like to dig a little deeper into the 14 reasons why gardening is an excellent activity for preschool kids with me, read on.
14 Ways Gardening Benefits a Preschool Child:
1. Develops attention span.
Most young kids can’t maintain concentration for very long. While they may be thoroughly interested in a task, they often tend to wander off or get distracted. Gardening is not like other exercises and activities. It requires the child to complete a series of interesting tasks that all form one main task. It creates a more present, mindful attitude in young children, and this does wonders for their attention spans.
2. Gets kids outdoors and in the sunshine.
Modern-day parents know all about wrestling digital devices out of the hands of their kids and trying to lure them off the couch, outdoors into the sunshine and fresh air. It seems like a daily battle with young children. The digital age has all but stolen the attention of the world’s youth, but that does not mean that you can’t get them outdoors, with a little effort.
What’s convenient is that most preschoolers find gardening fun once they are actively involved in it. They want to get their hands dirty and help. You will find that very few will pass up the opportunity of doing something fun in the garden with you for screen time.
3. Reduces the “instant gratification” mindset and promotes long term investment.
We live in an age where instant gratification has become the norm. Gardening is not like that. Kids might want to see immediate results for their efforts in the garden, but they will just have to wait. That’s just the way it is when it comes to gardening.
When the seed they have planted first breaks through the soil, when it gets its first leaf, when the first flower arrives, and when the fruit/vegetable makes the first appearance – these are all important milestones and will prove extremely exciting to young kids. Kids, therefore, learn that there is value in waiting and investing their time.
4. Inspires an interest in eating vegetables.
If you struggle to get your preschooler to eat all his/her greens, perhaps it’s time for a completely different approach. Eating store-bought vegetables is not very interesting to small children – that cannot be denied. Kids might know that vegetables are good for them, but they do not have a personal interest in the vegetables, so interest levels are not typically high.
When a child is served up vegetables that miraculously arrived in the fridge, it’s hard for them to have any feelings or interest in them. All of that changes when your child is actively involved in the growing and caring process of the vegetables that end up on his/her plate. When there is a personal investment, suddenly it becomes a whole lot more interesting.
5. Opens minds to science and nature.
When kids learn about growing and caring for plants, they are exposed to a variety of scientific concepts. Their mind starts to wonder how things happen, and this is when they truly learn. In the garden, your child might want to know how leaves get green, how plants drink their water, how a plant’s flower turns into a fruit, and so on. All of these questions provide valuable educational opportunities.
6. Provides a good source of exercise.
Kids do not like to do “work”. If you tell a child it is time to exercise, chances are that you are not going to get much enthusiasm or cooperation. Gardening is a fun activity, but it is a great form of exercise too. Kids do not even realize they are exercising when they are lifting and carrying heavy objects, raking up leaves, pulling out weeds of watering the garden with a hose.
7. Enhances fine motor development.
Fine motor development is essential for kids to learn in order to be in full control of their bodies. Coordination plays a large part in this. Some tasks that enhance fine motor development include spading dirt into pots, placing seeds neatly into holes, pouring water into specific pots.
8. Provides an opportunity to bond.
I was not aware of it at the time, but when I was visiting my grandmother on those Saturday mornings, I was actually enjoying bonding time with her. Every task was done together. Every chore was a team effort, and the successes in the garden were celebrated together. There is no need to spend money on a bonding family outing. All you need to do is step into your garden and get to work together.
9. Teaches the value of responsibility.
Kids do not understand why they need to behave responsibly and be reliable. It is the type of lesson that can only truly be learned through experience. There is no reason why young kids need to learn this or have this experience the hard way. When a child is assigned tasks to do in the garden and shirks their responsibilities, the garden will have a negative impact. This impact shows kids that when you do not act responsibly, there are consequences to pay.
10. Shines a spotlight on the significance of environmental awareness.
If children are never exposed to how the environment works, they will never quite understand it. Children exposed to gardening are provided with the opportunity to understand how their treatment of the environment results in either good things or bad things (a flourishing veggie garden as opposed to a dry, baron patch).
11. Provides education on food sources.
Believe it or not, not many kids know where their food comes from, how it grows, what it requires to nurture it, and how to get the very best out of it. By involving young kids in the growing process, they can become educated in all of these areas.
12. Provides basic mathematics skills.
While gardening does not involve any technical mathematical equations, it can teach children basic addition and multiplication, for example. This can be done by asking children to count the seeds, make a certain amount of holes in the soil, or measure and pour a certain amount of water. All of these activities will get the brain working mathematically.
13. Teaches patience.
When learning to garden, children have a habit of consistently checking on their new seeds of seedlings for growth. As time passes, they learn that patience is the key to enjoying the process. When kids learn patience through gardening, they can apply it to other areas of their lives.
14. Boosts planning and organizational skills.
Preschoolers are entering a phase in their lives where they are learning and retaining information. In order to become better students, they need to learn to plan and organize efficiently. By giving children of a young age a piece of garden to tend and be responsible, they will need to learn how to plan their time and organize their tasks around their schedule and other chores. This is a great way to boost their already developing planning and organizational skills.