Children enjoy gardening for many reasons – they like digging, they like seeing things grow, they like helping their families. But one main reason that kids rarely identify is that when they help to create a garden, they feel a connection with that space. And, in a world where people are becoming more and more disconnected, I think this is perhaps the most important reason of all for getting kids gardening.
Connections happen when you spend time with someone, getting to know them and finding out what they like and don’t like. It is the same with gardening. Kids need to spend time gardening so that they can learn what plants need to grow, about different types of plants, and how to tend a garden to keep it healthy. Some kids may prefer growing vegetables, some kids may like helping to create a compost heap, and others may want to dig the soil to add air. Expose them to as many aspects of gardening as you can so they can make that initial “connection”. Then, as they start to see the garden develop, they will feel more ownership of the space and begin to care about “their” garden. The friendship has started!
Friendships are connections on a much deeper level, requiring nurturing, empathy, and patience, all traits that children learn when gardening. As a teacher and mother, I have seen first hand how children who may have difficulty getting along with other kids can develop empathy and understanding for others by gardening. They have to think about what the plant needs, not themselves, so they are able to take on another perspective. They learn patience as they nurture seeds until they finally sprout. They have to “work together” with nature on a common goal…helping plants to grow. I bet you never realized having a garden could teach you so much about friendship!
The kids at Discovery have made their connections with our gardens and are now developing their “friendships”. I see how eager they are to check on our tomato seedlings and observe how much they have grown. We work together to dig out beds and create different areas in the garden. They love planting and caring for the wildlife they find as we spend time outside (especially the worms!). And I can’t even imagine how excited they will be to finally taste one of the cucumbers or tomatoes we have grown from seed. They are clearly fully connected to our gardens and care about what happens there.
So, when others ask me why I spend so much time gardening, and trying to get others to join me in this hobby, I tell them what a great “friend” gardening is! Gardening can teach us so much…empathy, understanding, patience and even to trust in our own abilities (never knew I had such green thumb when I was a child)! Let your kids “get dirty” digging in the soil, don’t stress over a couple of broken plants (because it will happen at first), and help your kids develop a friendship with their garden – it will become a friend for life!