PARENTING: How gardening grows healthy kids

20 May 2017
Reading time3 minutes

Research shows that getting grubby in the garden has a tonne of benefits for our children’s body, mind and soul. Here are ways you can encourage a love of gardening in your children.

Gardening is not just great for children’s growing brains, but for developing motor skills and introducing concepts such as science and healthy eating. It is also great for us parents – getting us out in the fresh air, which does wonders for stress levels!

Start small

While gardening can conjure up feelings of needing a ‘green thumb’ or having a large, sprawling backyard a great way to get started gardening with your kids is to start small! Try a small raised garden bed, or find a little corner of yard and plant some herbs, a tomato vine or maybe some peas, zucchinis, cucumbers or pumpkins.

Gardening and its effect on literacy and brain development

While it may look like your kids are just getting super messy, they’re also learning some important things while they’re tending to their garden. Watching their garden grow can prompt some interesting thoughts and questions. They may ask ‘How do the plants drink water?’, ‘Why do the plants need the sun?’, ‘How do the plants grow’ and much more. Soon this thirst for knowledge and curiosity will spread to other areas of their life.

First Five Forever recommends that parents work with their child’s innate curiosity to help build their language skills. Asking and answering questions about a shared activity is a great way to build up conversation and communication skills as well as their vocabulary. Talk about what you’re doing as you’re doing it and get them involved. Soon they’ll be ‘propagating’, ‘mulching’ and ‘harvesting’ with the best of them!

Gardening as family time

Gardening is also a great way to have uncomplicated family time. It gives you time to relax and connect while children gain a sense of purpose, responsibility and care for the environment. Studies have shown that children that have contact with soil through digging and planting have improved moods, better learning experiences and decreased anxiety.

Then there’s the benefit of growing and eating your own produce. Kids will get a big kick out of eating that cucumber that they grew themselves! Create a menu together with your produce and enjoy eating it together as a family.

Where to gather inspiration

Your local library is a great source of gardening inspiration. Sunshine Coast Council Libraries have a range of gardening books that are perfect for kids. Here is a selection of their recent gardening titles:

The Kew Garden’s children’s cookbook by Joe Archer and Caroline Craig. This contains growing instructions for a kitchen garden.

My first gardening book: 35 easy and fun projects for budding gardeners 

Gardening for beginners by Emily Bone and Abigail Wheatley 

The nitty-gritty gardening book: fun projects for all seasons by Kari Cornell

The children’s garden: loads of things to make & grow by Matthew Appleby 

Once your garden is established and you’ve got some homegrown produce to play with, why not get the kids involved in the kitchen creating a menu with their fresh vegetables and herbs. Again, the library is the place to go for a range of cookbooks for kids. A few great suggestions are:

The forest feast for kids: colorful vegetarian recipes that are simple to make by Erin Gleeson

I quit sugar with Sarah Wilson kids' cookbook: easy and fun sugar-free recipes for your little people! by Sarah Wilson and Rob Palmer

The Pokémon cookbook: easy & fun recipes by Maki Kudo 

Kindy kitchen: where fruit and vegies come to life by Jessica Rosman

For more tips to turn everyday activities into fun learning experiences, visit First 5 Forever.

Written by

Belinda Peters

Belinda is a journalist, blogger and editor with more than 15 years’ experience in print and online journalism. As our digital editor, Belinda immerses herself in scanning the web for the latest in parenting news, products and opinion for the Kids in the City/Kids on the Coast online community. When she’s not kid wrangling two energetic boys, Belinda lives for trying out the ever-expanding array of cafes, restaurants and bars in her home town of Brisbane. While her caffeine addiction remains strong, she also finds her Zen with yoga and attempts to find her balance by stand up paddle boarding.

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