How a garden can help your child's mind "grow"

For a few weeks now our little one has been asking when the first day of spring would arrive. I could tell she was filled with excitement not only about the change in weather, but other changes that come with spring including planting a garden.

We are fortunate to live in a city where there is an urban core and farmland less than 15 minutes away. Despite the easy access to farmers' markets, I have always planted some vegetables with our daughter. There is so much that a young mind can learn from planting a seed and watching it grow! 

Here's what the research says: 

  • Across numerous studies, researchers have found positive impacts on direct academic outcomes. The highest positive impact was found for science followed by math and language arts. Indirect academic outcomes were also measured with social development surfacing most frequently and positively. These results were consistent across different gardening programs, students, and school types and using different research methods.
  • In a survey of over 1300 college students, those who gardened as a child (i.e., did more than just watch their parents garden) ate more fruits and vegetables daily compared to those students who have never gardened.

What does this mean for you? 

  • Engaging children's senses: by allowing them to be involved in all aspects of planting (touching soil, seeing water being absorbed, smelling flowers, tasting the food they grown, hearing what's happening in the garden) you will be engaging all their senses. 
  • Introducing scientific concepts: when gardening, you could touch on botany, biology, chemistry and math. Ask questions like "How long do you think it will take before the seedling appears?", "How tall will the seedling get? Which type of plant will grow the tallest?", "What does this seed need to get growing?". You can also introduce charts and graphs to keep track of children's hypotheses. 
  • Teaching responsibility: Children can learn what they need to do every day or week to ensure that their seeds develop into healthy strong plants. In addition to watering, might you need to protect your plants from critters in the garden? Why do you keep seedlings inside the house before moving them to the garden? 
  • Planning and Organizing: Children can quickly learn that there is much to consider when planting a garden. From space needed between plants to learning that certain types of plans need to go in the ground first. Making maps of the garden, organizing seeds into piles and charting a planting schedule using a calendar are all ways to help develop planning and organizing skills.  

Hope that all of the above serves as inspiration to get planting with the kids in your life!

Happy gardening! 

Resource: The above suggestions were inspired by this post from Mommy University.