7 Reasons Why You Should Let the Little Ones Garden
Gardening is a productive, rewarding, and fun activity for all ages. And when we say all ages, we mean it, kids included. In fact, for gardener and child care provider Christina Kamp, even infants can start gardening as soon as they can crawl. “I have children as young as one that can plant a seed with little or no help from me and do it correctly.” She’s a strong advocate in gardening as a learning tool that she even started Little Sprouts Learning, a home-based preschool that teaches gardening to young kids. She also adds that it is important for children to get involved in gardening because it teaches them skills for the future. Here’s a few reasons why:
Gardening teaches a lot of skills.
In her 20 years as a childcare provider, Christina has tried a lot of different learning activities. And for her, the sensory experiences in the garden are truly amazing. “The glorious smells, beautiful sights and sounds, wonderful variety of textures to feel, and the unparalleled beauty in the garden is a wonderful learning space for children to explore.” She also adds that opportunities to develop cognitive skills, like math, science, and reading, as well as motor skills, are abundant in the garden.
Gardening offers a wide variety of activities.
“Little Sprouts, the kids do everything in the garden,” Christina offers. Because of the different tasks gardening requires, they’re exposed to a wide variety of activities that teach them different things and require varying skills. “They do tire easily of weeding, but they help with watering, the plant in every bed in the garden, seeds and seedlings, and they harvest everything.” She adds, “They are involved in planting every kind of plant we grow. They dig up potatoes and garlic, they pick tomatoes and green beans, and they clean up in the garden.”
Gardening is a great platform for additional learning.
Gardening teaches the kids a lot about nature and the actual skills needed to garden, but it’s also a great platform for additional lessons. Christina starts the gardening lessons even before they set foot in the garden. “We do fruit and vegetable puzzles, cooking with the food we grow, veggie games, and all kinds of activities that stretch the garden experiences throughout the learning day.”
Gardening encourages healthy eating.
Children are fascinated with things they took part in producing. Fruits and vegetables are no exception. “Children are 80% more likely to try a new food if they were involved in growing it,” Christina narrates. “Each new school year I get new students and they usually are unfamiliar with a lot of what we eat. By Christmas, they are usually eating most of what we eat. Of course, there are always exceptions and some kids will continue to be picky eaters but I have NEVER had a child not learn to like at least a few things that we have grown they wouldn’t eat before. Over and over again I have seen horizons broaden on trying new things. I try new things, their friends are trying new things, so they eventually want to try at least a few new things. It’s amazing to watch.”
Gardening teaches kids to adapt and occupy themselves.
At Little Sprouts Learning, children have different attention spans and interest levels when it comes to gardening. Instead of forcing everyone to participate, Christina offers different activities to sustain their interest and to occupy kids who are getting bored while others get their gardening fill. “There are many ways to sustain their interest such as moving to another activity in the garden, playing a game in the garden to break up the time there, singing a song while we work, or talking about what we’re going to do with the food when we take it inside.”
Gardening demonstrates self-sustainability.
Children learn about how to be self-sustaining as they see how they can grow their own food. “Our goal is to grow most of what we eat in the summer, and at least some of what we eat when it’s not garden season. We have planted fruit trees and bushes, perennials such as asparagus, artichokes, and strawberries, as well as many fruits and vegetables we plant each year. We grow a wide variety of food. The kids get to take some home and we enjoy a lot of it here.”
Gardening trains children to be good stewards of the earth.
When gardening, children deal with nature firsthand, so they learn to care for our planet even outside the garden. Christina teaches the kids about earth-friendly gardening, caring not just for the actual plants, but for the wildlife involved as well. “Our garden is chemical free, we only use natural fertilizers and do not spray any chemical pesticides or herbicides on our plants. We do use diatomaceous earth occasionally and hand pick most of our pests. We let the beneficial insects do most of the work. We use the no till method with as little disturbance to the soil as possible to protect our worms and beneficial microbes in the soil.”
Working with kids in the garden teaches a lot of invaluable lessons that they’ll take with them as they grow into upstanding, earth-caring citizens. But best of all, gardening teaches them to be kinder and better human beings. As a parting shot, Christina says, “We have tons of fun at Little Sprouts. We believe in kindness, lending our friends a helping hand, and choosing to do good.”
Christina Kemp is a family child care provider based in Oklahoma. She has been teaching kids for the past twenty years. For more lessons and ideas on childcare, please visit Little Sprouts Learning.