With the push these days to get kids outdoors and active I’m surprised gardening hasn’t gotten more of a mention. Obviously it’s not a sport but it is a physical activity and it is outdoors. And anyone who has dug a couple of holes or has spread a few barrows of mulch knows there’s a bit of hard work involved at times.
Aside from the physical work there are also more educational and psychological aspects to consider. Gardening incorporates many aspects of biology, such as nutrient requirements, plant growth, environmental requirements, plant reproduction, and animal-plant interactions just to name a few. So obviously any kid who gardens will have a serious advantage in biology class.
And after a tough day at school or an argument at home, a garden is also a good place to go to calm down and relax. I mean, us adults have been doing this for ages, so kids should be able to do the same. Even if it’s been a tough day at school and you’re angry at the world, you’ll soon find yourself distracted by something in your little plot. Be it a new bud, a plant that needs watering or a couple of weeds that need exterminating. The main thing is, it gives you a distraction and some time out.
The styles of gardening can also be completely individual, from tropical exotics like bromeliads or orchids, to vegetable or fruit gardens. Naturally I have a strong bias towards native gardens because they can have a greater reaching positive effect on the surrounding environment. Take for example, a wildlife garden: with nectar producing natives for the birds, and a pond for the frogs, your child will not only gain a better understanding of botany, but also zoology, and in a small step, link the two together to gain a first hand understanding of ecology.
How do you get your child to get into gardening? Easy. Ask them if they would like to have a designated part of the garden. Most kids will say yes, because it’s free. If they say no, you’ll just forget about it for now because you can’t make someone want to garden, but the offer should remain open. The realisation for a child that he or she now has control over a section of the property may also give the child a greater sense of responsibility and that’s got to be a good thing too.
Next, let them grow whatever they like as long as it’s legal. It’s their garden after all. They’ll make mistakes, they’ll make a mess, they’ll ask for financial assistance, but most importantly they’ll be outdoors and learning.
And don’t worry about your gardening child getting teased. For some reason gardening doesn’t seem to be a tease-able topic. I know, I became a serious gardener at age 12.