Building, planting and maintaining a garden requires hard work, patience, and nurture. In a way, there are a lot of parallels with building and nurturing your family – just think how many gardeners talk to their plants (and believe in the benefits). Whether you have a garden with ornate flowers and beautiful water features or a working plot full of healthy, nourishing and delicious vegetables, getting the family involved is a great way to build bonds, boost health and increase self-esteem. If you’re a seasoned horticulturist or just a rookie with a taste for getting your hands dirty, the benefits gardening can bring to you and your brood are numerous and far-reaching. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
Gardening is a fantastic and fun way to introduce some scientific concepts to the kids. They can be impatient once seeds are planted to see what will happen next, so if you choose quick-growing plants for them to start with they can then see quick results which will keep them interested. Even if you show them something as basic as weeding the lawn make sure they can see the positive results of their actions. Identifying and removing weeds from your lawn is crucial to the well-being of any garden and this activity can be as fun as it is useful. As their curiosity builds, you can introduce more and more scientific concepts (simplified according to their age of course) such as photosynthesis, the effects of dry or wet weather on the crops, bugs to watch out for (the nasty ones which eat crops) and the helpful creepy crawlies to help nourish the soil and keep the bad bugs away. You could even build a little worm farm if you’re not too squeamish about it. And remember, along with the science, kids love getting their hands dirty!
Not only is it super healthy (and environmentally friendly) to grow and eat your own crops, it’s also a great way to get the kids to tuck into the veggies. The satisfaction of having planted, weeded, watered and finally picked them out of the ground will encourage them to try new things. Not only that, but homegrown vegetables put supermarket stuff into the shade when it comes to taste, texture and flavor.
Good for the Mind
It may seem obvious, but being outside in the fresh air, whether you’re working hard or relaxing on a bench or hammock is good for your overall health. Breathing in the clean air a garden produces naturally is calming and it does wonders for your mental health. Gardening can be a meditative experience, and digging, planting or carrying things about boosts endorphin levels and encourages serotonin in the brain. The feeling of satisfaction that growing crops or flowers brings shouldn’t be underestimated either – it’s great for everyone’s self-esteem – as is the satisfaction of sitting down to a meal of delicious homegrown veggies.
Good for the Body
Again – digging away at your plot (and of course getting the kids to help out) is exercise, and hard work pays off. Your lungs and heart will reap the benefits of outdoor work, and for the kids (especially younger ones) helping in the garden will boost the development of essential motor skills, strength and precision which will help them at school and in all other areas of life. Another set of bonuses for you all – hand strength will build, stress will decrease, you’ll sleep better (all that fresh air and hard graft will leave you with a happy, satisfying level of tiredness at the end of the day). Gardening is also thought to reduce allergies and boost immune systems – what better reason to get out there and start working?
Gardening is a great way to highlight to the kids how important it is to look after our world’s environment. Teaching them to nurture the soil and telling them about pesticides and non-organic fertilizers will definitely set them on the path to environmental awareness. Don’t forget to point out all that plastic packaging on supermarket veggies next time you go shopping. Teaching children about these issues, especially as the world faces bigger and bigger challenges with regard to climate change and global warming is essential to keeping our Earth (and your garden) healthy and sustainable.
It goes without saying that working together on a big, multi-layered project like a garden brings people closer. Communication develops to a different level – you’ll be able to teach your kids things which they will take pride in mastering (or at least attempting to master) and the collaborative spirit fosters a healthy combination of togetherness and autonomy which is vital for many aspects of life to come. Working hard together in the garden is a great way to build a relationship with your children that goes beyond helping with homework or ferrying them around in the car.
OK, gardening with kids isn’t always ideal. You may be tempted to keep your yard neat and tidy, and trying to stop a young baby eating dirt is a constant distraction. But really, when you look at the bigger picture, your family and your health can only benefit from working together in the (not so) great outdoors. So get those hands (and feet, and faces) dirty, en famille!
About the Author
Bethany Seton is a recent economics graduate, working for the last two years as a community counselor. Before settling in an office again, she decided to follow her passion for writing and traveling. Currently, she travels with her laptop and writes for various blogs, hoping one day she will gather all the experience she gets in one book.
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