Children benefit greatly from outdoor activities that allow them to get some fresh air and exercise. Gardening not only encourages them to get outside, but provides numerous other benefits to their developing minds and bodies. Raised garden beds can be added to almost any play area to bring nature to the classroom. Gardening kits and planters can be combined with water tables and activity panels to create a complete outdoor learning environment for preschool and elementary age kids of all abilities.
As children plant, care for and harvest their blooms and vegetables, they can learn the names of several plant species. Small furry creatures and insects may also come for a taste of garden tomatoes or flower nectar, giving parents or teachers the opportunity to teach the kids about the characteristics of these animals and their purpose in nature. Gardening is an excellent opportunity to teach older children about the earth’s ecosystem and biological functions like photosynthesis or the structure of a plant cell. And little ones can begin to work out the plant life cycle or label the parts of a flower.
Students have likely noticed how various trees and plants can look during different seasons. Colorful, falling leaves in autumn or fully-bloomed flowers in the spring may have caught their eye. A garden can be a controlled way to explain the changes in the season and the impact that has on plants. Different vegetables can be planted throughout the year. Kids can observe as a flower shrivels and disappears around Halloween and miraculously reappears from its bulb around Easter. Gardening activities are also a great way to teach about weather and the effects it has on plant life. Teachers can take the opportunity to explain the role of water and sun in plant growth. Little ones will be delighted at the idea of their plant friends returning each year as they continue to care for them.
Gardening can develop and enrich children’s sensory systems and improve behaviors without them even realizing. As they run their hands through the soil or pluck ripe vegetables from their stalks, they are refining their motor skills and advancing cognitive abilities. And growing a healthy plant requires a lot of time, dedication and commitment, encouraging patience and responsibility. Additionally, healthy eating habits and an appreciation for food can be generated by children spending time in a garden.
Outdoor activities, like gardening, are proven to alleviate stress and improve mental health in both adults and children. Teachers and caretakers can now build full gardens at schools and daycare facilities to establish an outdoor classroom setting. Garden beds, planters, kits and arbors can be combined to create a beautiful oasis for sensory play and hands-on learning.