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Gardening with Children | Planting the Seeds of Growth!

Do you know about the benefits of gardening with children? Read about how day-care and kindergarten can get those little green thumbs to work!

This is a contribution from Sesame Lane Care and Kindergarten, who pride themselves in inspiring growth through engaging experiences, and one of those is their centre gardens. All Sesame Lane centres have onsite gardens as part of their sustainability projects.

Mother nature as the ultimate teacher

Digging in the soil, getting dirty and watching plants grow! Exposing children to the wonders of Mother Nature can be the beginning of a beautiful relationship. It’s in this most natural of classrooms that our children can access a range of intra-personal and interpersonal skills.

What kind of skills can be developed by gardening with children?

Consider the natural curiosity of a child. They’re always wanting to test cause and effect, identify connections and experiment with textures. What better place for this to occur than in the safe confines of their educational environments?

Gardening with children can promote self-confidence and independence – key skills for the pre-prep crowd. A sense of safe, supported fun can develop in an atmosphere where patience and care are the keys to success.

It’s important that kids learn a sense of responsibility and respect – for themselves, for each other and for the wold that they live in. Gardening with children is an excellent way to allow little minds to grasp these complex concepts and to see their hard-work in action.

Learning about the environment

Let’s face it – we’ve not been kind to Mother Nature. The world that we are ultimately going to be leaving our children with could do with a kinder hand and some caring guidance. The work that excellent childcare facilities, like Sesame Lane, do in order to promote engaging natural experiences means that from an early age children will develop an affinity with, and respect for, nature.

It’s in this outdoor classroom that gardening with children, even the littlest ones, can lead to scientific discoveries. What do seeds do? How do we care for plants? What role do insects play? What impact does weather have on our vegetables? This natural inquiry-based learning activity will provide children with the opportunity to develop the kind of growth mindset required for academic and personal success in school.

Social skills developed through gardening with children

Communication, cooperation and companionship are the three key areas developed by day-care and kindergarten based gardening programmes.

Children learn to communicate their needs clearly through both verbal and non-verbal cues. It becomes quickly apparent when in the outdoors that individuals need to work together for the greater good. The care that needs to be provided for these little plants quickly finds a place at the core of a hive of buzzing activity.

Sesame Lane is a centre that shines a spotlight on cooperation as a necessary life-long skill. Learning how to socially manoeuvre the sometimes difficult task of working together becomes child’s play with an early learning program focused on the importance of teamwork. Gardening environments team fun with productivity so that classmates can become close friends who share a common goal.

RELATED: If you are looking for a plant nursery that welcomes kids and dogs, we have a list of family friendly nurseries here.

Teaching sustainability through a ‘paddock to plate’ philosophy

Gardening with children is an activity that is best run when contextualised in terms of the lived experience of the students. Showing students the full produce cycle from planting to growing to harvesting to eating will create a deeper level of respect for the process.

Childcares that have centre gardens and on-site cooks mean that the hard-work of the little learners can come to fruition in the form of a nutritious meal they can take pride in. This sense of ownership leads to the development of autonomy and resilience – absolutely vital skills children need to spread their wings once they graduate from kindergarten.

What is actually involved in a community garden at childcare?

Taking Sesame Lane as an example, parents can expect their children to be involved in a different range of activities with a different set of expectations depending on their age. All actions taken will be age appropriate and connected to in-classroom learning activities.

Your little ones may be involved in watering, harvesting and planting. Slightly older gardeners would experience the full range of tasks including digging, carrying, planting, mulching, pruning and dealing with any insect issues.

Expect that this gardening with children unit will be supported by much learning material! Reading, story-telling, art work, investigations and experiments would all have the gardening experience at their centre. This unit of study would be easy to follow up on at home with your own garden (or even a planting box if you live in an apartment).

How can I enhance this activity by gardening with children at home?

There are a range of great ways you can easily follow up on the good work done by your childcare. You might even snag a little more precious family time while you’re at it!

Consider taking a trip to your local plant nursery to allow your children to select a range of food-yielding plants in your own home. Herbs are easy to grow as well as certain vegetables – be aware that items like tomatoes and strawberries are typically quite fussy though! Choosing a hearty plant to grow at home will mean that your children can see it’s cycle through, rather than see it ending up in the green bin!

You could begin a compost bin which your children could help maintain. This would help them make connections between food, refuse, waste and soil and help solidify what they’ve learnt about sustainability and being careful consumers. It has the added bonus of being extremely good for your garden! (As long as you don’t mind a worm or two)

Getting little hands involved in the more basic gardening activities (like weeding and planting flowers) is a great way to spend outdoors time as a family. Get the music pumping, get hats on head and get gloves on to get the good times rolling!

Choose a childcare centre that is interested in investing in the future

If you want to raise little people that care, enrol them in a centre that teaches that very quality. Gardening with children should be part of the experience of every family. Provide your children the opportunities to get grounded with the array of skills offered by this wonderful educational experience.

More local gardening information

Gardening with children articles

Find more great articles about enjoying family time around the home here.

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Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

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