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WHY GARDENING WILL MAKE YOUR KIDS HEALTHIER AND SMARTER

Kids Gardening

This blog first appeared as a guest blog as part of the Blissful Domestication blog series titled Get In Your Garden. We love to support Kids Gardening. As parents our gut instinct is to get our kids out into the garden, we know it is good for them but do we know why?

I read a sad article in the Guardian recently which said ” Three-quarters of UK children spend less time outside than prison inmates, according to a new survey revealing the extent to which time playing in parks, wood and fields has shrunk. A fifth of the children did not play outside at all on an average day, the poll found.”

After reading the article I researched a lot around nature and out door play you can read some of the findings on my blog but basically getting out in nature and being in green spaces is super important for our child’s development and happiness, so I jumped at the chance to delve a bit deeper into the benefits of garden time for this guest blog.

What The Experts Say

A report called Gardening and Health in 2016, found that most qualitative studies reported positive well-being effects on children who get out in gardens, including in terms of personal achievement, pride and empowerment through growing food and being involved in gardening.

Another article I found had an interview with Caroline Levitt, who founded the Diggers Forest School and Nursery near Midhurst, West Sussex, who believes the benefits of outdoor work and kids gardening are huge.

She says: “Children can learn so much and have fun, too. Gardening involves lots of different activities, such as design of the garden and choice of what to plant, and it can be a good team or friendship building exercise, as they take turns to water plants and share the weeding. This is also a good way to learn responsibility.”

“Gardening can also be a fantastic sensory experiment, handling dry earth or gloopy mud and even worms! It is a great way for children to naturally learn patience while they watch their produce grow.”

She is totally right! A great article on the BBC News tells us about a “study of 1,300 teachers and 10 schools was commissioned by the Royal Horticultural Society which found children in schools that encouraged gardening became more resilient, confident and lived healthier lives”

Green Spaces

Other research found that “Access to green spaces, and even a view of green settings, enhances peace, self-control and self-discipline within inner city youth” so it is no surprise to hear that researchers found that contact with the natural world can significantly reduce symptoms of attention deficit disorder in children as young as five years old.”

In America a Texas A&M University survey of children under 12 actively involved in gardening projects in school, community or home settings, found benefits to children’s self-esteem and reduction in stress levels.

These are huge benefits to kids gardening and the more I discover the more I realise how important gardening is for little people. It is also a wonderful opportunity for family time, all being together with different jobs and responsibilities. Even creating a small patch of garden which is just for your child can be really fun, let them choose what they want to grow and watch their faces light up as thing start to grow.

KIds Gardening

Promote Healthy Eating

One of the things that excites me most about kids gardening is all the research on how it improves nutrition. Research has found that Children who grow their own food are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables (Bell & Dyment, 2008) and to show higher levels of knowledge about nutrition (Waliczek, & Zajicek, 2006). They are also more likely to continue healthy eating habits throughout their lives (Morris & Zidenberg-Cherr, 2002).

A study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that gardening increases a child’s intake of fruits and vegetables, nutrition knowledge and preference for vegetables.

“Gardening exposes kids to a variety of fruits and vegetables and encourages taste testing straight from the ground and at the dinner table. “Helping kids figure out that a tomato can taste good from the vine to fresh salsa brings it full circle and helps them get more out of the experience. It makes a lasting impact,” says Jen Haugen.(RD, leader of a grocery store gardening program for kids)

Haugen advises parents and educators to “think on a kid level.” Kids like to see something happen fast. Plant crops that grow quickly like green beans or those that produce heavily like grape tomatoes. Sunflowers are another fun addition to the garden. They grow quickly and can be dried for the seeds. Harvesting carrots and potatoes can be a treasure hunt. “Allow kids to pretend they are digging up a buried treasure,” says Haugen. And remember: kids are going to get dirty; that’s part of the fun for them.

With childhood obesity at an all time high and poor food choices all around us educating our children about food is a key skill we should be encouraging and gardening is a proven way we can educate them. Gardening is a great way to teach children about where food comes from but it also builds math, science and environmental skills.

Great Learning

One study showed that children who get involved in gardening projects scored higher in science achievement compared to those who did not. The magic of watching a garden grow may make your kids to ask questions like: Why do the seeds need water? What happens if plants get no sun? Soon you will be talking about photosynthesis, evaporation and STEM projects!

But best of all whilst gardening with your little one can give them a host of incredible benefits it’s good for us parents too. A poll of 1,500 UK adults for Gardeners’ World magazine found that gardeners score higher than the average person on measures including how worthwhile they believe their life is and how satisfied they are with their life generally.

So wether it’s planting tomatoes and beans on your balcony or digging a big vegetable patch in your garden all the research I find says you should help find your child’s green fingers asap!

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