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© 2015 Shanna Lea
On of my favorite activities with my kids was involving them in gardening. Like every other normal kid, they would complain a little about having to work in the garden instead of playing video games, but once they were out there digging in the dirt and poking seeds in, they lost track of time. They were excited and fascinated when the green sprouts popped up out of the ground, giving them a sense of accomplishment from their work. Later, as the veggies neared harvest, I spied my son and his friend ‘stealing’ carrots out of the garden. I watched from the kitchen window as they pulled up a couple of carrots, rinsed them under the outdoor faucet all while looking over their shoulders in case they were ‘caught’. Then my son chomped down on the carrot and motioned to his friend to run with him to the alley to hide while they ate their stolen treasure.
If you have kids, or grandkids, you can instill in them the values of hard work, effort and the patience and anticipation of the results of their effort. It is quality family time together outdoors in the fresh air, a time for talking and listening to each other and just being together. Kids of all ages and physical or mental challenges, all learn and grow from being out in the garden. Engaging with nature can help children with autism spectrum disorders combat anxiety, promote sensory integration and build social skills.
Why Plant a Children’s Garden?
All children benefit from getting out in the garden. Here are a few reasons to build one.
- It instills the good value of hard work and consistent effort and the rewards that follow.
- Tending a garden gives them something productive to do every day instead of spending that time in front of video games or the TV.
- They get fresh air and sunshine—producing the vitamin D they need in their growing bodies.
- They observe nature, the birds, weather, and growing cycles of plants.
- They learn the basics of gardening.
- They see the progress and growth in the garden and take pride in their work—helping to provide food for the family.
- Science and math skills are reinforced.
- They learn about water conservation.
- They learn self-sufficiency.
- They learn about healthy eating.
- Promotes sensory integration.
- Combats anxiety.
- Builds social skills.
- They will carry these experiences well into adulthood and reflect back on what they learned.
Designing a Children’s Garden
The easiest way to design a children’s garden is a bordered bed with decorative stones, bricks or cinderblocks to edge their garden. If you are handy with tools, you can build a raised bed out of wood.
Then, pick out the proper soil, gardening tools, and seeds to plant. It’s important to make sure your child gets to choose and make decisions in every step of the process from the design shape of the garden to the veggies and fruits you’ll be growing. As the adult though, make sure that your soil and climate are right for the plants you choose.
After building and setting up the garden bed, it’s time to plant! You can plant the seeds or seedlings in rows or square foot gardening style. Or let your child go crazy and plant how they want. This learning experience teaches them about the needs of plants as they grow. Decorate the garden with your child—you can paint the wood or stones, put up garden decorations or build a scarecrow! Since (at least this part) of the garden is theirs, let them pick what they want in it and help them build it, even if you are the one who actually does the building part.
When it’s all said and done, you’ll have a beautiful garden bed you put together as a family. All that’s left is to teach your child what to do and how to water it. Give them a schedule appropriate for their age and skill for how and when to do it. You may have to fill in for them when they forget, just gently remind them that the garden needs tending to daily. Then, you can harvest your rewards and serve it up for dinner or eat fresh off the vine—a memory they will never forget.