Guest blog - The Benefits of Gardening with Children

I can clearly remember when I first got interested in gardening. I was about 10 years old and a colourful display of seed packets in a local shop caught my eye. They had pretty pictures on the front and made an interesting rattling sound. I was intrigued, so I bought a pack and took them home. I cleared a little patch and planted my precious seeds in the ground. My seeds germinated and grew into beautiful carnations, a flower which I love and still grow to this day, several decades later. The joy of the whole process had me hooked and I’ve been an avid gardener ever since. It really is that simple to get children interested in gardening, and the benefits are enormous.

The benefits of gardening for children (and adults too!) – where do I start? There are so many you could write a book, and I bet somebody somewhere has. So, I shall do my best to summarise them here. First up, it’s great fun – digging in the dirt, building a den (no adults allowed of course), throwing autumn leaves about, discovering worms and other fascinating creatures, watering everything in sight (even if it’s already wet), building a wacky scarecrow are some of the many joys of letting a child loose in the garden. If they have a sibling or willing adult to share it all with, so much the better. It is great exercise and being out in the sunlight makes sure they get plenty of vitamin D.

Being outside in nature has been shown to be beneficial for mental health and well-being. Schools today can be high pressure places. Children are expected to meet targets at a certain time and generally be in a rush to make the progress the National Curriculum says they should. I think of gardening as ‘slow learning’. Seeds will germinate when they are ready, not to anyone’s timetable. Nature will progress at its own pace, just slow down and go along with it. Gardening teaches patience – in a garden, good things really do come to those who wait! When those good things are tasty tomatoes or vegetables to eat or wonderful flowers to attract bees and butterflies, what could be better? Healthy eating starts with knowing where food comes from. Children are often more willing to try new foods if they have grown them from seeds. Gardening teaches resilience – not all seeds will germinate; slugs will eat precious seedlings and not all plants will survive a harsh winter. That’s just the way of gardening and learning to cope when nature doesn’t seem to be on our side is an important life skill. Try again – the next batch of seeds may well behave perfectly!

None of us can be unaware of climate change and the perilous state of nature across the world. Species decline has occurred at a terrifying rate. The UK State of Nature Report, published in 2019 reports that 41% of species have declined since 1970. Butterflies and some species of birds have been particularly hard hit. Children will be naturally curious about the plants, insects, birds and mammals they encounter whilst playing and digging outside. Teaching them to recognise, look after and plant for wildlife is probably one of the most important benefits of gardening for children – a new generation growing up with a love and respect for nature will benefit the entire world.

So get outside and enjoy the fun – happy digging, building, sowing, growing and learning!

Louise - Gardening For Kids