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In March 2020 our lives were changed by the pandemic: schools closed, and children learning online and parents working from home became the norm. Many parents took on much more responsibility for their children’s education. In March 2021 our lives are showing some signs of improvement but caution and following CDC guidelines are still necessary. A lot of children are still learning online and a lot of parents are still working from home.
As retired teachers and gardening enthusiasts, we encourage you and your children to begin a new learning adventure by gardening together. In our schools, we saw children get excited about and love the gardening projects teachers did each spring.
Whether you live in an apartment, condo or house, you can still enjoy gardening with your children. You can have potted plants, dish gardens, hanging baskets, or plants in the ground. They can be flowering plants, herbs, fruits or vegetables. Start small! Don’t get overwhelmed! Now is a great time to start planning and planting seedlings.
Here are some of the many benefits of gardening with children:
1. Engages all the senses. Touching and feeling the dirt, seeds and flowers; seeing different colors and sizes of plants; hearing the sound of birds singing and bees buzzing; and smelling the various scents of flowers.
2. Encourages healthy eating. Half the fun of gardening is getting to eat what you grow.
3. Enhances fine motor development. Scooping up the dirt, placing seeds in pots and watering the plants all require fine motor control and strength.
4. Introduces kids to scientific concepts and the scientific process. Gardening develops STEM and analytical abilities, introduces the world of science especially botany, biology and chemistry.
5. Fosters family bonding. Children and parents can work together to choose which flowers and vegetables to plant and where to plant them.
6. Teaches responsibility and a sense of self confidence. Children learn they have to take care of their seeds every day for them to grow in to healthy plants.
7. Highlights the importance of taking care of the environment. It creates an opportunity to learn about pollution, pesticides and recycling.
8. Develops math skills. From measuring the soil depth to counting the seeds; measuring the growth of a plant, graphing progress; identifying shapes in the garden
9. Teaches patience. Gardening is often a slow process, waiting to see the bloom open or the vegetable to sprout requires patience.
10. Enhances the ability to plan and organize. Research what flowers bloom during what time of year, when is the best time to plant different kinds of seeds; start a writing journal and keep a photo journal.
11. Provides engaging, moderate exercise. Gardening is a surprisingly physical effort and teaches children a pattern of healthy activity.
12. It positively impacts health and well-being. The act of gardening produces powerful positive emotions, improves moods.
As outdoor activities go, gardening is among the best for promoting well-rounded development in children. Whether in pots on an apartment balcony, a community garden, or right out the back door, children who engage with a garden are harvesting a lot more than food and flowers. Gardening makes the best use of all of your child’s senses and has the potential to help your child become a humble, caring and responsible human being.
Sources: www.kidsgardening.org; www.mommyuniversitynj.com; www.rasmussen.edu; www.moms.com.
— Article prepared by retired MCPS educators: Tricia Evans, president, Pioneer Garden Club and member, Daffodil Circle; Kathy Bruce, secretary, Pioneer Garden Club and member, Daffodil Circle.