Mankind has been inundated with technology! While this means that many facets of living are made a hell of a lot easier, with washing machines, dishwashers and the like, it has also resulted in the younger generation being obsessed with and glued to their electronic devices.
While many parents do a wonderful job at getting their little ones outside and enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, the general state of affairs is that many children are becoming almost completely divorced with the natural world. Some don’t even know that our food comes from plants! In a classroom students were asked where carrots came from. The response? The supermarket! They were completely oblivious to the fact that it had to be planted, tended to and harvested. Something drastic needs to be done to encourage everyone, especially the younger ones, to get outside, become conscious of their surroundings and ‘get their hands dirty’. Before discussing ways that tots can be ‘motivated,’ let’s look at the effects gardening can have on them.
The Beneficial Effects of Gardening on Children
Patience – Plants take time to grow and produce fruits, vegetables and flowers. In this world where impatience is becoming the rule and patience the exception (Think of when you’re trying to reverse from a space in a parking lot and a multitude of cars just drive past, desperately avoiding having to wait 30 seconds to let you out.). Teaching children this quality is becoming ever more important! Getting your little ones to sow seed and then to wait patiently over the weeks and months until they are rewarded with a pretty flower or delicious fruit or veggie, will help them realise that ‘good things come to those who wait.’
Compassion – Plants in your garden will need watering, pruning and protection from pests and diseases. In some ways, they need more care than certain pets. If a child is given the responsibility of looking after plants, they learn compassion or how to care for creatures that need caring for. They start thinking, not only of their own needs and wants, but the needs of other living things. This will result in a person who is truly concerned about the world. Also, it will get a child thinking of other people’s interests and therefore will become kinder and less selfish (The advantage of plants over pets, however, is that they can be grown for food! Unless, of course, you hail from some Eastern Asian countries!).
Health – Studies have shown that working with the soil provides numerous benefits for the immune system. Another study has proven that just being amongst plants, whether it be in the garden or the local park, makes us feel happier and reduces stress levels. Also, children are far more likely to eat vegetables that they have personally planted, tended and harvested! All that time in the garden, away from the computer and TV games, will be spent doing satisfying and enjoyable work.
These are just three ways your kids, and everybody else, can benefit by becoming more involved in the natural world by spending time gardening. But how can one motivate their child to get gardening?
Start Young – Get your children to help you out in the garden from as young as possible; before the idea that gardening is ‘lame’ gets implanted into their heads. Easy fun jobs like sowing seeds, watering and planting out younger plants are all suitable.
Quick Growing Plants – While gardening helps to teach children patience, seeing some faster results will stop them losing interest. Plant some quick-to-flower plants. In the food line, growing salad leaves and plants like radishes will provide them with some produce that can be harvested in a relatively short time.
Sensory Gardens – Include in your garden elements that will accommodate for all the senses. Plants that are interesting to touch and feel should be included; as should food plants. Of course, scented plants are always enjoyed by little ones. Water features can be added for sound. See the five part series on that topic under the ‘Garden and Home’ section on KnysLifestyle.com for more tips.
Own Patch – Children that are old enough can even be given their own portion of the garden. Even if it be a few containers or a section of a border. Give them absolute freedom to sow and plant whatever they choose to from the garden centre, within reason obviously. Having a small part of the garden to call their own will also teach them, to a degree, to be responsible.
It is clearly obvious that all of us need to get outside and into nature more frequently.