Written by Jessica Oo, Communications and Outreach Intern
In this day and age, our children’s eyes are glued to their electronics during school time and playtime. While it can’t be helped that remote learning is a necessity to help families practice social distancing, it is a shame that children can’t interact as often with their peers and expend their energy outside in a schoolyard. Even during their free time, kids might gravitate towards playing the latest Nintendo Switch game with their friends or scrolling through Youtube videos just to ease their boredom.
Therefore, it’s incredibly important to engage a child’s mind with hobbies and activities that don’t always involve a screen. This will ensure that kids will not be completely reliant on electronics for entertainment, lessen the impact of blue light damage from screens, and remind them to be more physically active instead of sitting stationary at a computer all day. One of the best activities you can do to avoid all of these dangers is gardening! Down below are a few reasons why you should consider gardening with your child along with some age appropriate activities depending on your child’s preferences and physical capabilities.
Reasons Why You Should Garden with Your Kids:
- Gardening can be an important tool to encourage kids to eat healthy and promote sustainable agriculture. By growing your own food, parents can ensure that no harmful chemicals or pesticides are added to the plants. Children will also feel accomplished about the food they’ve grown and be more excited to eat their healthy produce!
- Use this as an educational tool by asking children to read gardening books and easy to understand gardening manuals. Here is a great link on gardening books for kids!
- Getting down and dirty in the garden may seem daunting for parents who are worried that their child could get easily sick. However, it is important to note that having children exposed to the dirt and bacteria in gardens can actually help boost their immune system and overall health. Just make sure to clean up afterwards and always use the appropriate tools when needed (i.e. gloves, shovels, sun protection, etc.)!
- Gardening can be done anywhere regardless of the size of your home and gardening space. While some families may have large backyards with pre-existing fruit trees, some families live in smaller homes or apartments with no outdoor spaces. Check out these two Each Green Corner articles on hydroponic gardening and gardening without a backyard for more information!
- This is a great way for family members to connect with their young children. Since children are online learning, they have very few opportunities to interact with others in person. Gardening with your family allows for team building and promotes communication skills regardless of the size of your family. It’s nice to have a big family of five with siblings and parents running around, but there’s nothing wrong with a one on one gardening session with a mom and her son!
Age Appropriate Activities:
Ages 2 – 4
- Choose flower colors
- Pick the types of plants they want to grow
- Water plants with a small watering can
- Learn about the life cycle of a seed
Children at this age are simply preschoolers who still need supervision from their parents. That’s why having them choose what type of produce or flowers they want to grow in their garden can still make them feel excited about the impact they have on the garden. This is also the perfect time for parents to show their kids how to take care of plants and how to water them.
Ages 5 – 8
- Harvest berries
- Make a flower arrangement
- Plant flower bulbs
- Plant seeds in small pots
- Pull weeds
At this stage, kids can start interacting with the garden and helping out with basic tasks. For example, picking fruits and flowers is a great way to start introducing children to different plants and their purposes. Doing this will also engage them with different colors, shapes, and textures to teach them about sensory details.
Ages 9 – 11
- Choose plants for a themed garden
- Dig out weeds
- Help build a drip irrigation system
- Start a compost pile
- Plant a tree
Gardeners at this age are more physically capable and can do a lot with the right gardening tools. However, always remember to give safety precautions and provide supervision when your child is using anything sharp or heavy!
Ages 12 – 15
- Mow lawns
- Design and plant their own herb garden
- Be mindful about gardening with insects and wildlife
- Prune fruit trees
- Identify and remove invasive plants
- Work on a science project that involves plants
Children between the ages of 12 and 15 will generally have longer attention spans and can work on gardening tasks that require a bit more time and energy. Having them make decisions on their own and work on more tedious tasks can also help them learn critical thinking skills and patience. In the end, they will be rewarded for their efforts!
Fernando, N. (2016, March 16). Gardening with Kids: How It Affects Your Child’s Brain, Body and Soul. Retrieved November 13, 2020, from https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/gardening-with-kids-how-it-affects-your-childs-brain-body-and-soul#:~:text=Planning a garden, planting the,sense of purpose and responsibility.&text=Furthermore, studies show that when,learning experiences and decreased anxiety.
“Garden Activities – Garden by Age”. (2018, November 16). Retrieved November 15, 2020, from https://kidsgardening.org/garden-activities-garden-age/
Shor, D. (2014, November). Age Appropriate Gardening Activities. Retrieved November 15, 2020, from http://redwoodbarn.com/DE_AgeAppropriate.html