Blog submitted - summer 2019
Ready to grow a garden with your family? Children can learn to grow flowers, fruits, vegetables…and even character! Gardening involves many social and emotional skills that will benefit any age child.
As a preschool teacher, I facilitate the learning as students become self-aware, explore connections with others, and learn cooperation skills as they plan, plant, and harvest our community garden.
These are fundamental traits I have observed the children engaging in:
Children learn responsibility by taking care of the garden. They learn quickly that the garden needs attention and teamwork to thrive. Each day a child can water, weed, and even talk to the plants.
At school, the children will come and find me on the playground if I forget to water the garden. I set the sprayer to mist to ensure they can’t hurt the plants, and the children will gather in line to await their turn to water the plants. They love telling me what plant they would like to water.
Children learn to respect the garden and all its living things, including bugs and worms! It’s always an opportunity to talk about how to use gentle hands with all living things.
My school children learn to respect each other’s personal space when planting and know they cannot crowd their friend’s space. Once the seeds start to sprout the children must respect the plant and practice self-control not to handle the plant too much. With adult guidance, the older children help the younger children with this skill.
Patience is a skill that is difficult for any child in our fast-paced world. It’s hard to wait for the plants to grow, but in the end, the children see the amazing rewards. Children are always excited to share their daily discoveries. A great activity to encourage and enhance further interactions is to have a child document the gardens progress through journaling and sketching.
At school, children loved sharing their discoveries of a plant’s growth or their disappointment that it remained the same. They use magnifying glasses to get a closer inspection!
Empathy is a difficult concept to approach with children. When a plant isn’t doing well or doesn’t survive, the children feel sad for the plant. At home, this is a perfect opportunity to start composting and teaching the children about loss and renewal.
My students will help pull the dying plants, and we teach the children about how the dying plants will go down into the Earth to help new plants.
Successful gardening requires the children to learn cooperation and working
with others to gain the skills needed to raise and tend to plants. It’s a wonderful way to further your relationship with your children when working towards a common goal.
In the school’s garden, the children work together to decide what plants go into each section. Having to share and collaborate with others are necessary skills in many situations. Through gardening, they learn that everyone’s help is needed and it is beneficial for everyone to cooperate.
Pride in oneself is a lesson a child doesn’t receive often enough. The children feel rewarded and proud when they begin to see the plants growing. This intrinsic morality boost is better than any present.
At school, the children celebrate their success when the flowers bloom or when they harvest their bounty. It is incredible to watch them discuss how they can make the garden even better for next year.
When the weather warms, take the opportunity and time to begin gardening with your children. Not only will you be helping them grow a garden but also augmenting their growth and development by providing them with lessons for a lifetime.