Gardening is a valuable activity that benefits kids in many ways, and helps them grow alongside the plants they care for.
Kids love to dig in the dirt and watch things grow, and gardening is a natural extension of these interests. In addition to dirt under their nails and smudges on their knees, kids can gain so much from gardening — physically, intellectually, and emotionally. Introducing kids to the joy and benefits of gardening from an early age will help them in ways that you may not have anticipated.
The basics are: plant a seed, watch it grow. But along the way, children can learn new skills and develop physically, intellectually and emotionally, all while enjoying every step of the process.
How gardening benefits kids
So how does gardening benefit a child? In what ways do they grow alongside the plants they are tending?
1. It helps with fine motor skills.
As children involve themselves in sowing seeds, thinning plants, weeding, pruning and harvesting, they are helping develop their fine motor skills.
2. It helps kids practice locomotor skills.
Children naturally work on locomotor skills as they move around the garden while weeding, watering, and sowing.
3. It helps with body management skills.
Gardening may involve carrying watering cans, moving soil, carrying tools, bending over to weed, squatting to plant a seedling, all of which help with their body management skills.
4. It helps with object control skills.
Using gardening tools such as spades, trowels, hoes, rakes, hoses and watering cans will help them with object control skills in other areas of their life.
5. It provides sensory stimulation.
Gardening involves all five senses:
- feeling the temperatures and textures around them (wet dirt, soft soil, fuzzy leaves, chunky mulch, warm sun)
- smelling the different scents around them (fresh dirt, warm plants, fragrant flowers)
- seeing the multitude of colors (blue sky, brown soil, green plants, colorful flowers)
- hearing the nature sounds around them (water splashing, birds chirping, leaves rustling, wind blowing)
- tasting the fruits of their labor (edible gardens are very rewarding)
6. It encourages fresh air and exercise.
Gardening gives kids a task to do outside, brings them into the fresh air, gets them moving, and gives them a good dose of Vitamin D.
7. It teaches kids about nutrition and encourages them to make healthy choices.
Children are more apt to try a new fruit or vegetable if they’ve worked hard to help it grow. Growing their own fruits, vegetables and herbs exposes them to nutritious choices that can help set up life-long habits. Fresh peas from your own garden are a wonderful gateway to all things green and tasty!
8. It involves getting dirty, which may strengthen their immunity and overall health.
Digging in the dirt can expose children to everyday germs/microbes, which in turn can help them build a strong, healthy immune system.
9. It involves scientific observations and queries.
Children may be led to ask questions based on what they observe: why something is growing well or not well, the importance of sunlight and water, etc.
10. It helps them learn to plan and organize.
Being involved in the planning and organizing from the start can help kids feel more invested in their garden. Check out our Garden Planner for tips, tools and resources for getting them involve in the planning stages.
11. It involves mathematics.
Children will use mathematics in gardening without even realizing it! Gardening involves counting seeds, measuring and calculating plant spacing, measuring how much the plants grow, etc.
12. It teaches them new vocabulary.
While gardening, children are exposed to new words that they may not otherwise use in their daily life: soil, compost, till, sow, aerate, germinate, moisten, etc. They will also learn the names of plants they are working with.
13. It teaches different plant species.
Their hands-on experience in the garden will help children learn to recognize different plants based on their size, leaf shape, flowers, fruit.
14. It teaches plants’ growth cycles.
While working in the garden from one season to another, children can witness the full life cycle of plants. They can observe the progression from seed to seedling to mature plant to flower to fruit and back to seed again.
15. It teaches cause/effect.
Children will start to notice different examples of cause/effect in their garden, such as the effects of sunlight, watering, fertilizing, weeding, and thinning.
16. It teaches responsibility.
Plants need regular and consistent care, and children learn what it means to be responsible for something to help ensure it health.
17. It teaches patience.
At a time when many things in their lives are immediate and instant gratification is common, children will practice patience as they wait for the seeds to sprout, the plants to grow, the flowers to bloom, the fruits and vegetables to ripen.
18. It helps foster respect and admiration for the importance of farmers.
As children see the amount of work and dedication that is necessary to help plants grow, they may increase in respect and admiration for the work that farmers do every day, year in and year out.
19. Digging in dirt can make kids happier and more relaxed.
Studies have shown that when kids have direct contact with dirt and mud, it can help improve their mood and reduce anxiety.
Why kids ENJOY gardening
For kids, the above benefits aren’t necessarily what makes gardening interesting. So what is it about digging in the soil and tending a garden that they enjoy?
20. They love to play in the dirt!
21. They love to watch things grow.
22. It makes them feel good.
23. It gives them self-confidence and a sense of purpose. (They see that their efforts produce results.)
24. It helps them relax.
25. They feel satisfaction in learning a new life skill.
Gardening goes beyond the basics of seed + soil = plant and is valuable activity for kids to enjoy while spending time outside. Along the way, they’ll reap unanticipated benefits and develop alongside the plants they are caring for. So let’s get outside and grow something together!
Now that you know the benefits of gardening with kids, it’s time to get started! Here are two resources to help:
Square Foot Gardening with Kids: A Practical Guide
Don’t miss our post, How Square Foot Gardening Gets Kids Started on Planning and Growing an Edible Garden. We’ve included step-by-step instructions for this simple, kid-friendly approach to establishing your own kitchen garden.
Kids’ Garden Planner
Our Garden Planner is a great tool to use when getting your kids involved in gardening. Using the square foot gardening method, it helps kids visualize and plan their future garden and makes the process fun! Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gardener, you’ll enjoy the visual promise of this planner.
For other springtime outdoor activities, read 36 Spring Outdoor Activities for Kids (low- to no-prep). Then head over to our shop and check out our Spring Outdoor Activity Bundle and Spring Outdoor Activity Pack and many scavenger hunt options.