“Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” Forget silver bells and cockle shells; these days, it’s probably with some good potting mix, a few seedlings and just the right amount of sun.
There’s so much to learn from Mother Nature; from natural life cycles and recycling and composting, to personality traits like patience and curiosity. Here are four reasons we use gardening at Step Ahead to help our children discover and connect with the world around them.
Encourages healthy eating – Engaging children in growing vegetables can help them gain a keen interest in eating them too. They see the hard work that it takes to grow them and they get a sense of achievement knowing they are eating food they have grown themselves. Toddlers aren’t known for their attention span, so look for something fast-growing. Snap peas and cherry tomatoes are ideal as they’re quick to thrive and have visible fruit that’s small and safe to eat straight from the plant. For a longer growing time but great results, why not try sunflowers and watermelon?
Sensory development – Gardening engages all sorts of senses that our children develop and recognise without even realising. They can feel the texture of soil, seeds and flowers. They get to smell all the amazing flower scents and see all the colourful petals. It also helps develop hand-eye coordination and builds physical strength. As children garden, they develop important motor skills that will help them improve their academic skills such as writing, cutting and typing.
Discover not-so-creepy crawlies – There’s much to discover in the garden if you know where to look; worms squirm around in the dirt, snails hiding under pots and perhaps a spider or two tucked up in a web. This is a great way for children to interactively learn about and identify bugs and bees found in the backyard!
The circle of life – For lessons on life, love and loss, the garden has more going on than a soap opera. Children discover there is much to learn about the circle of life, as well as how to adapt and respond when things don’t quite work out. Some plants may flourish while others falter, and we look for lessons in the failures. Honeybees also have a habit of swimming where they shouldn’t so we also rescue the odd bee from a bucket or birdbath. It’s an excellent opportunity to explain both the importance of looking after our bees and what it means if they don’t make it.