Growing Green Fingers – The Benefits Of Gardening For Children

Gardening – particularly if you’re growing your own food – has a multitude of health and general wellness benefits which will greatly improve the lot of any human [1], regardless of their age. Our children, however, are likely to experience a diverse and lasting range of benefits which may escape adults. In the main, this is because children are still developing. The experience of tending a garden and bringing food to fruition can have lasting effects upon the way in which a child develops and the adult they ultimately become, all of which – all other things being equal, and the child receptive to the task – are positive. Here are just a few of the ways in which gardening can benefit children.


It Instils Healthy Habits

Gardening is a very healthy occupation, and gardening for your own food is – as we have established here before – a great way to connect with and gain a greater understanding of what you eat. Researchers in America have discovered that those who garden regularly are far less likely to make health claims [2] than those who do not, and are far more likely to make healthy and informed food choices [3] than their non-gardening counterparts. It’s also well known that getting into healthy habits when young means that you’re far more likely to develop an effortlessly healthy lifestyle as you get older. A child who loves gardening and growing their own food is therefore hitting the ground running when it comes to developing a health adult lifestyle! Of course, this only works if the child is introduced to gardening in such a way that they enjoy it – we all have that thing our parents made us do thinking it would be good for us, which we now despise as a consequence! Be careful not to force your child into the garden, and definitely don’t tower over them tyrannically while they sulkily dig!

It Teaches A Lot

On a fairly basic level, gardening teaches children a lot about plant behaviour and biology – which is not, in fairness, knowledge to be sniffed at. However, it also teaches some more fundamental lessons constructive to their own development [4]. Responsibility, for example, is learned rather swiftly when a plant dies of neglect, while a sense of self-efficacy and confidence is learned when a carefully nurtured plant thrives and bears produce. Older children can safely explore avenues of independence in the garden as they begin to cultivate and develop their own patches and/or containers. And all children can benefit from the fantastic mix of artistic creativity, scientific application, and hands-on practicality which gardening involves. It’s an activity which exercises and develops many portions of the brain and personality at once – fantastic for helping children to grow into well-rounded individuals!

It Develops A Love Of Nature

A love of nature may not seem like something a kid particularly needs these days – a wishy-washy concept without which a child can get by perfectly well. However, research is increasingly showing that a love of nature can actually be incredibly beneficial for everyone, particularly children, and that an inability to connect with nature can lead to serious problems. In the USA, Richard Louv has coined the term ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ [5], which he uses to describe conditions he believes to be caused or contributed to by a lack of time outside and interaction with the natural world. He attributes varying modern problems such as the rise in obesity and depression to this ‘disorder’, and further claims that ADHD – the scourge of modern parenthood – is another Nature-Deficit issue. This may seem incredible, but science seems to back him up. Studies carried out with children suffering from ADHD have found that their symptoms alleviate considerably once they begin to regularly play or simply be in ‘green space’ [6]. Similarly, scientists and psychologists are increasingly drawing link between time spent outdoors and reduced risk of depression, stress, and other anxiety disorders, as well as greater general health and lowered obesity risk. Getting your child to love nature through gardening could, therefore, bring with it an incredible payload of health benefits, as well as giving them a wonderfully fulfilling interest which will sustain them for the rest of their lives.

This is a guest post from Helen Gough.
Prior to working in writing I was employed in the healthcare sector for many years and was lucky enough to have a varied career that took in many aspects of helping people, particularly in matters relating to diet, nutrition and fitness. When I became a mother I think my perspective on life changed and I decided I wanted to put my energies into looking after my own family – so took to writing articles on the topics I knew about as a way to share my knowledge – Helen.

See more posts from Helen:

Mental Health Benefits of a Vegetable Garden

Growing Your Own Garden – Healthy Accessible Food For The Whole Family

Citations

[1] Anne Harding, “Why gardening is good for your health”, CNN, Jul 2011

[2] QZ, Your Health

[3] Heidi Godman, “Backyard gardening: grow your own food, improve your health”, Harvard Health Publications, Jun 2012

[4] Susan Miller, “How Gardening Teaches Kids To Grow”, Scholastic

[5] Timothy Egan, “Nature-Deficit Disorder”, New York Times, Mar 2012

[6] University Of Illinois, “For kids with ADHD, regular ‘green time’ is linked with milder symptoms”, Science Daily, Sept 2011