There is a rumor going around that it may touch 60 degrees in this part of Michigan today. If it does, it will be the warmest day we've had in four months. It has been a long, cold winter and everyone is more than ready for spring! I'd be willing to bet garden centers all around the area will be bustling, even though it's really too early to trust the warmth. As that last frost date draws closer, though, I'd like to give you 10 great reasons to toss your kids out the door and into the garden.
1) Planting a garden is a great expression of creativity.
I believe when the Bible says that man is created "in the image of God" that refers, at least in part, to the creative spirit. It is sheer joy to allow your garden be a living canvass upon which you bring your ideas to literal fruition! It's true that kids might mess up the plan. They trample things and dig in the wrong spots. They put too many seeds in one hole and none in the next. Frankly, I do the same things. But if you have the type of personality that just gets really irritated by that perhaps you could share a corner or a pot or a pallet with the little people. The creative spark in children runs bright and hot and you just might be amazed at what they can do when left to figure things out for themselves!
2) Being in nature has a calming effect.
It's not just an old wives tale. Science backs up the theory that people who spend time out doors are calmer, more peaceful and better focused. (Source) If your children are driving you nuts with their wild antics hand them a bucket and boot them outside to pull weeds. You'll feel better. They'll feel better. Everybody wins!
3) Children who spend time outside do better in school.
There's all that, above, but there's this, too. Studies show that kids who spend time outside perform better in academic settings. (Source)
4) Helping to grow vegetables encourages eating vegetables.
Hand me a can of grayish-green peas and tell me it's a side dish and I'll turn my nose up at it every time, but I'll happily munch fresh peas from the vine all afternoon! Kids have taste buds, too! Food, fresh from the garden, is flavorful and nourishing. Plus, it's indescribably satisfying it is to see a plant that you've nurtured from a seed bear good fruit. Even the pickiest veggie hater will find something they love to nibble if you give them enough time in the garden.
5) Gardening is a great way to teach children about how every part of our world is valuable and deserves respect.
A good garden needs worms and insects, dirt and old leaves and clean water and sunshine. I have never experienced a more tangible way of seeing, first-hand how every single thing on this earth is intricately and irrevocably woven together. When we respect and care for all of the parts of our world and, in return, our world nourishes us. That's a lesson every child needs to learn.
6) Getting dirty helps build the immune system.
Did you know that keeping your child too clean will make them sick? Kids raised in very sterile environments have a much higher tendency to asthma, allergies and immune problems. (Source) Encourage your child to play in the dirt!
7) Being together in the garden presents great opportunities for conversation.
You know how "they" say you should limit screen time to 2.7 minutes a day (or something like that) for children under 17? Yeah… we don't do that. We are a plugged in family. It is not unusual, at any given moment for me to be pecking away on my MacBook while Handsome Hippie Hubby is doing research on his laptop, Sweet Hippie Daughter is reading on her tablet and Toddler-saurus Rex is sorting colored shapes into baskets on the Kindle Fire. We get in the car and we're singing to the radio. We're at the store and we're focused on crossing items off the list. But in the garden… in the garden it's just us. There is all the time in the world to talk about anything and everything while we putter along doing whatever needs to be done.
8) Gardening is great physical exercise.
We are a nation that asks our children to sit a LOT. Sit on the bus. Sit in the car. Sit at your desk. Sit for your music lesson. Sit in church. Sit at the table. Sit down and do your homework. Ok, time to relax. Feel free to go sit on the couch and watch TV.
Gardening is motion. It is bending and lifting and digging and crawling. If you make the mistake I did last year and put your plants too close together it's like a yoga class trying to get to the fruit without squishing anything! If you doubt that gardening is exercise, give it a go, just for a day or two and tell me how your back feels when you are done!
9) Problem solving, building, engineering and chemistry are all part of gardening.
You've got a 12 foot long tomato vine crushing the 3 foot wire cage that is supposed to be supporting it. How can you use the long stakes you have to get the plant up off the ground before it rots?
How do you get the water to spray on something that's just out of reach of the hose?
How do you re-route the rain run-off so it doesn't drown your beets?
Is the soil acidic or base? Is that good or bad? Why? How can it be adjusted?
Gardeners need to be constantly figuring and calculating, building and experimenting to see what works. Gardening is science.
10) Because no child needs to watch another episode of…. anything.
Have you seen EVERY episode of SpongeBob Squarepants 782 times? Is one more day of Thomas the Train going to derail your brain? Take your child out to the garden. Show them how to turn the sod. Let them plant seeds, mound up potatoes, pick beans or hand-pollinate squash blossoms. You'll both feel better for it.
Do you have a special memory of being in the garden with kids, or of being a kid in the garden with an adult you loved?
I'd love it if you would share it in the comments!
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Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?
If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!
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