In a world of screens where human interaction is almost as rare as interacting with nature, many children don’t have parents who take the time to do any activity with them. (The fact that you’re reading this means you’re not one of those parents.) So, let’s dig our hands into the dirt here: why should you make gardening the activity for you and your kiddo? There are a lot of reasons. Ultimately, it’s good for mind, body, and world.
1. You create memories with your kids.
The simplest reason to choose gardening as your activity is that it offers a regular project that encourages you to spend time outdoors with your children. There are few kids that wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to mess around in the mud, which means it shouldn’t be hard to get them excited about the process.
2. It teaches children patience and how to see things through.
The process itself offers a variety of activities. Buying soil, visiting farmers markets to buy seeds, internet research, trips to hardware and gardening stores to buy supplies, and many more. Each step along the way is an opportunity to excite the imagination and exercise the body.
You may well find yourself getting pretty pumped about it, too. A garden takes every-day care, but in short spurts that ensure you can hold your child’s attention. Gardening is a longitudinal activity; it lasts year-round, so it will be there whenever you want to spend time together.
3. You give your kids an education about nutrition.
Many school districts have actually started gardening and farm-to-school programs. They recognize the garden as a classroom. It truly is, and it can be a simple or complicated one depending on the scale and type of task you and your child are prepared to undertake.
Chat with your child about the different vegetables you’ll plant. Discover together what crops grow best locally, and their season. It may help to start drawing up a list of the vegetables that grow well during the time of year you’re starting your garden and let your child pick his or her veggies to tend. Involving your child in choosing which veggies to grow improves the odds they’ll actually eat them.
4. It supports mental development.
Growing food in a garden setting teaches and engages the whole person–body, mind, and spirit. Perhaps this is why it has been shown to be great for mental health. A 2011 study on gardening as a form of therapy showed that the activity helps kids cast themselves in a positive light, manage their emotions, and regulate their own behavior.
Gardening’s therapeutic properties are great for everyone, but the activity is especially fruitful for children with behavioral and anger management issues. You may very well find gardening a centering and rewarding endeavor that helps you as much as it helps your child.
5. You teach kids to make an impact.
Urban gardens are cropping up in cities across America, partially for aforementioned reasons, but also because more and more people understand that being close to our food is good for our environment. Growing even a small portion of our own food has an aggregate impact that reduces reliance on big agricultural monopolies that use toxins and pesticides in their crops that many of us would rather not digest.