Gardening is a hobby cherished by many adults for its gentle exercise, mental health benefits, and the vibrant vegetables and flowers it produces. But gardening can be a great activity for kids, too. Here are three reasons to get your kids digging in the garden this year.
1. Gardening Improves Kids’ Health
When kids are involved in growing a garden, they’re twice as likely to try new foods, according to one study. This makes gardening an excellent tool for parents of picky eaters. Rather than trying to sneak vegetables into dinner, parents can bring kids into the garden to improve their vegetable consumption. For families who have trouble affording fresh, organically-grown fruits and vegetables, gardening is also a great way to increase access to healthy foods without busting the budget.
Gardening also keeps kids active, an ever-growing concern in today’s world. Most kids don’t get enough physical activity at school or home, which has led to troubling childhood obesity rates and difficulty in the classroom. Gardening gets kids moving and offers a gentle introduction to an active lifestyle for kids who are more couch potato than athlete.
Another impressive health benefit? Playing in the garden may contribute to stronger immune systems among children. According to the hygiene hypothesis, an overly-clean environment can hinder immune development, leading to troublesome allergies and autoimmune disorders. When they get in the garden at a young age, kids are exposed to benign germs and bacteria that help build a strong, healthy immune system. Digging in the dirt can help improve immune function, relieve anxiety and even depression, giving them a positive outlet and providing you with an opportunity to address any issues they may be facing such as bullying or peer pressure.
2. Gardening Helps School Performance
Children who spend time in a school garden do better in school, according to studies. Hands-on work in the garden gets kids excited about learning, in turn increasing student engagement and participation in the classroom. This boosts performance in science, reading, and mathematics. In one school garden program, students involved in gardening performed better on standardized tests, with 12 to 14 percent more students passing three years after gardens were installed.
Your children don’t need a school garden to reap the academic benefits of digging in the dirt. Get your kids into the backyard garden and treat every hole dug and weed pulled as a learning experience. Measuring plants’ growth, identifying bugs, and monitoring rainfall are all great ways to bring education into the vegetable patch. Encourage questions and when you don’t know the answer, turn it into an opportunity to learn together. Self-directed learning will build your child’s self esteem in a way that touches every corner of his mental health.
3. Gardening Builds Family Bonds
Your kids have school, homework, sports, and scouts. You have work, bills, groceries, and chores. With everything on your family’s plate, it can be hard to find time to spend together.
Gardening is a great opportunity to connect with your children, and it can be done with just a little time each day, rather than waiting until you have the time and money for a big outing. It gets kids and parents unplugged from screens and working together toward something meaningful. And it can be tailored to family members of any age, from letting the toddler harvest tomatoes to helping grandma pull weeds.
Getting involved in the garden builds responsibility in children. Even young kids can care for plants, and their fragile nature teaches children an impactful, but low-stakes lesson about the importance of following through on responsibilities. When you make a summer garden a family tradition, you can build upon those positive traits year after year, molding your children into strong adults who can raise a family of their own.
There are so many wonderful things about gardening, but many people don’t see beyond hard work and delicious food. If you’re not already reaping the many benefits of a home garden, try one out this summer and watch your children bloom.