Growing food is a priceless skill for kids to learn. But getting busy in the kids’ garden is really about so much more than harvesting fruit and veg. Gardening is a miniature arena of life. It teaches a multitude of lessons that help kids grow into balanced, happy individuals, and paves the way for success in adulthood.
Here are some invaluable life lessons that your kids can learn from the patient, generous nature school of the garden.
In the vegetable garden, where plants wither from too little care or the wrong type of attention, the consequences of actions are real and visible... but not significant enough to cause any lasting damage. Seeing the consequences of their actions inspires kids to feel responsible, and having daily commitments gets them used to carrying that responsibility.
Plants must be cared for even when the weather’s unpleasant or you’re having a bad day. When kids are responsible for something, and are encouraged to tend their obligations consistently, they learn to overcome a lack of motivation in order to get out there and do what needs to be done. This helps to prepare them for facing challenges head on.
3. Work Ethic
Doing the same thing day in and day out can be tiresome. Caring for a kid’s garden bed is a simple and brief enough activity that children who garden can get a little taste of what it means to “work” without becoming exhausted or demotivated. The last thing you want is for your teen to leave home and be shocked at how much work adult life takes... and yet, this happens way too often. Introducing kids to a little bit of “work” when they are still small – especially when those duties are fun – means that when they’re older, they’ll be accustomed to applying themselves and putting in the effort that’s essential to happiness and success.
Another vital aspect to developing a strong work ethic in kids is reinforcing the “effort and reward” connection in the brain. Gardening, with its delicious harvests that please the whole family, does just that.
4. Curiosity and Observation
These skills are crucial to the field of scientific discovery. And you can practice them in the garden, because part of caring for plants is checking them over to see if they’re healthy, and figuring out what’s wrong when they’re not. If you’re homeschooling or are looking for inspiration on Montessori outdoor activities, get your kids in the garden: it can be the first building block of developing essential science skills.
Thinking about something outside of their own concerns teaches kids empathy. Kids can learn to care about other little lives in a fun and harmless way in the garden.
Gardening also teaches kids to care about nature. Nature is tirelessly generous, but she must be treated well. Kids will see this in the most hands-on way possible in the garden.
6. Prioritizing Health
Kids will start to realize that being healthy can take effort. And that effort pays off with physical strength and vitality as the immune system strengthens. When kids exercise in the garden and enjoy healthy harvests, they get into the habit of paying attention to and caring for their bodies. Be sure to verbalize and point out these health benefits to your kids to reinforce those lessons.
7. Stressing Less, and Rising to Challenges
You get dirty in the garden. Freshly harvested food is dirty too. In the garden, there are thorns, bugs that bite, and weather or pests that can ruin even the most tenderly nurtured crops. Kids who garden are more in touch with the realities of life than those who expect everything to be easy, clean and neatly packaged. This teaches patience with challenges and difficulties… you learn that life is never perfect, but it’s more fun to “ride the waves” of life’s obstacles than try, and fail, to have circumstances perfectly under control.
If you’d like to get your kids out into the garden, inspire them with a children’s gardening set! Our kit includes everything a young gardener needs to grow his or her own food: child sized gardening tools (a high quality, metal-tipped spade, rake and trowel), a small watering can, biodegradable peat pots for seedlings, plant labels and a canvas garden tool bag to keep it all in.
Written by Rifke Hill
About the Author
Rifke Hill was raised on the sort of farm your grandparents told tales about – milking cows, gathering eggs, hoeing the soil, and building fires to heat water. She now spends part of her time copywriting online as a freelancer. The rest of it is spent nurturing and teaching her four energetic children, growing vegetables, baking bread, reading voraciously, having coffee with the neighbors, and enjoying the sunny slopes of the smallholding where she lives, in the Garden Route, South Africa.