young child standing in the garden with produce they harvested

Benefits of Gardening in Early Childhood Settings

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Wanna teach your kids patience, focus, and engage them in something outdoors? Gardening in early childhood has amazing benefits for the rest of a child’s life.

Kids in the garden harvesting lettuce

See how gardening can overshadow the screens and change your early childhood program. The benefits of gardening with kids are innumerable!

Importance of gardening

There are a million reasons why gardening is important. It’s an art that may be lost if we don’t practice it. We need to know how to produce our own food in case the food system can’t do it for us. And that’s a real possibility. We’ve recently seen how the system can break down.

Gardening in early childhood settings supports holistic learning. It teaches math, science, prereading and more. Kids can improve physical development as well as perceptual and motor skills. There is so much sensory output in the garden that stimulates kid’s brain connections.

Kids breathe in the fresh air, experience weather, practice balance, and develop motor skills when using tools and grasping seeds. You are also encouraging healthy eating habits. Kids are more likely to try and taste what they help grow.

Gardening encourages curiosity as they watch what happens when they plant seeds and watch plants grow. This teaches patience and delays gratification.

Gardening teaches a lot of emotional development as they learn about failure and disappointment as well as success. They also learn about the plant’s needs which helps them learn about other living thing’s needs. Learning to take care of a living thing has untold benefits.

kids planting seeds in the preschool garden

Benefits of gardening for children

There are so many benefits of gardening for children. They get a closer look at life cycles and wildlife. They observe textures, smells, tastes, sounds, and so many colors as well. The garden stimulates all of their senses more than most anything else imaginable.

It’s a great place to learn problem solving and develop their math and science skills. They don’t just get to study plants but also bugs and animals as well.

Gardening helps with prereading skills and developing children’s vocabulary. They can practice drawing and writing. Graph and chart different leaves or growing habits.

Physical activity from turning compost, digging, raking and so on help burn calories, improve behavior, and grow kid’s healthy bodies. It also helps brain alertness and cognitive abilities. Working in the garden helps improve focus and memory, and can help with speech and language problems. It’s also great for building social skills.

Gardening is a great stress reliever. Studies show it reduces cortisol levels. It promotes peace and lowers anxiety as well. There is even evidence it helps with depression. I know I struggled with depression for decades and when we started our preschool garden, it completely disappeared. I have less anxiety, and no depression at all.

Gardening in early childhood teaches kids from a very young age about the environment. It helps them respect and appreciate nature.

Taking care of plants and growing healthy food will build kid’s confidence as well. It’s exciting to watch the miracle of a seed going from dry and seemingly dead to a living plant that then grows flowers and eventually food. You’ll feel so powerful when you do it. And kids are no different.

Kids also learn responsibility, love of nature, discovery, reasoning, cooperations, creativity, understanding, and even about nutrition from growing a garden in their early childhood program.

Remember to keep it simple, give over some of the control, use child sized tools, plant flowers that attract pollinators, talk about worms and other creatures and the work they do, and even visit community gardens or other children’s gardens.

For safety of the children, do not use chemicals in the garden so the food is safe to pick and eat. Make sure there’s some shade and a place to rest, make sure to remove buckets of water and don’t leave them around the garden, and have a good sturdy fence around the garden.

If you’d like to plant a sensory garden for kids, check this out. If you need instructions for building cheap raised beds, here is information on that.

Beginning gardening, how much to water, how to control weeds, and easy plants for kids to grow are mentioned in these articles. They can help you get started. There’s even bucket gardening 101 here.

Choose fuzzy plants, fragrant ones, sweet and sour ones, noisy ones, and brightly colored ones for the best children’s garden.

child and adult harvesting okra seeds to save for next year in a colandar

Gardening for toddlers

Be prepared before you start gardening with really young kids. There are great ways to plant seeds with really young kids and make a successful gardening experience for you and them.

Research the area you’re going to plant and make sure it has sun, water, and good soil. Make the necessary adjustments to prepare the garden for planting. The soil should be soft enough for the toddler to dig in. Ammend it with compost and other organic matter. Learn about secrets to soil success here.

Remember to be relaxed. It’s going to be messy gardening with kids. You’re not going to have a straight row organized garden. We grow more radishes in the walkways than we do in the beds because the seeds are small and they drop so many. It’s going to be okay and you can still grow, so be ready to enjoy the chaos.

Make places where the kids can dig any time they want. They will want to, so make a yes place for digging.

Be ready to eat what you grow, so make sure you’re planting what you like. If the kids see you dig into the garden goodies, it’s likely to influence them to give them a try.

Remember that gardening is fun! It’s not perfection. Everything won’t grow. But some stuff will and it’s super satisfying and tons of fun to learn about it.

There are tons of great gardening articles on the blog, so feel free to search and find what you need to know. And happy growing!

For more tips on running a home daycare, click here.

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