There are many wonderful reasons to be involved with gardening and especially to involve children. Children love digging in the dirt, looking for worms and insects, watering the garden and themselves! Besides having fun, there are many benefits to gardening with children.
The National Gardening Association has documented that teachers and youth leaders describe how gardening benefits kids’ health and well-being, their attitudes towards learning and the environment, their connections to community and so much more.
What other activity can you think of that can help us eat healthier, provide strength and cardio training, increase flexibility plus relieve stress! Gardening can provide all of these plus so much more. Vary your gardening activities to keep your interest and to broaden the range of benefits.
By introducing children to the joy of gardening at an early age, you are exposing them to what can become a lifelong passion and healthy habit! Children will also enjoy the special time they are spending with an adult in the garden – someone who is encouraging their creativity and curiosity.
Gardening – check out some of these Hidden Benefits:
- Stress Reduction
- Physical Activity
- Connecting with Others
- Exposure to New and Different Foods
- Pride and a Sense of Well-being
While many children and some adults will not eat a variety of vegetables, they are much more likely to at least taste something that they have grown themselves. Gardening provides fresh fruits and vegetables and the encouragement to eat them. These foods are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and other compounds that help fight disease.
The most recent USDA Dietary Guidelines which are pictured on MyPlate recommend that ½ of our plate should be made up of fruits and vegetables. (2 ½ cups veggies, 2 cups fruit) Most Americans are only eating about ½ of the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables each day. By increasing the amount and variety of fruits and vegetables that we are eating, it can help with the current obesity epidemic that we and our children are facing.
Both Physical and Mental Wellness
As many adults can attest – that first day in the spring working in the garden can bring sore muscles the next day! As the summer goes along, our muscles are strengthened and we find that we are able to do more than we imagined on that first day out! Our endurance also increases as the season goes along.
Many children lack opportunities for physical exertion. Sometimes they don’t have safe places to play outside or they just aren’t interested in “exercise”. Gardening provides the opportunity to encourage children to walk away from the computer, TV, video games, etc. and introduce them to a fun and productive activity. Gardening is an excellent way to get physical activity. Active people are less likely than inactive people to be obese or have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer, and premature death.
Be active for at least 2½ hours a week. Include activities that raise your breathing and heart rates and that strengthen your muscles. You can burn 150 calories by gardening (standing) for approximately 30-45 minutes. Help kids and teens be active for at least 1 hour a day. If you have been inactive, start out with just a few minutes of physical activity each day. Gradually build up time and intensity.
Gardening also can help reduce our stress levels. Relaxation and stress reduction are one of the biggest hidden benefits of gardening. Research has shown that working in a garden can help create a more positive outlook by the participants.
We sometimes forget how much stress children can have in their lives. Spending time in the garden – focusing on the garden even if just for a short time can help them relax and rejuvenate.
Gardening can also increase the feeling of belonging. Again, many children do not have that sense of being an important part of their community. By working together in a garden, that sense of community develops and children can begin to appreciate that they can contribute to their community in a meaningful way.
We don’t want to forget that one of the most important benefits from gardening with children is the opportunity to have fun. You have probably heard the phrase of having “good clean fun”. Well, gardening may not be clean, but it surely can be fun and good for us at the same time!
Writer: Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Franklin County, Ohio State University Extension, firstname.lastname@example.org
Reviewer: Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Pickaway County, Ohio State University Extension, email@example.com
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