Your mind is the garden, your thoughts are the seeds.
The harvest can either be flowers or weeds.
— William Wordsworth
Gardening Tips for All Ages, Kids Included.
Any gardener will tell you that their hobby has huge benefits to their mental health. Fresh air, getting dirty, coaxing food and blooms from the earth are pleasures that feed all the senses.
What gardening does not provide, though, are instant results and that’s unusual for a generation used to being served up entertainment and education on iPads, Kindles, Android Tablets, and other touch screens.
And yet, according to some scientists, it has never been more important for all of us to get outside and into the garden with the children in our lives. Consider this quote from David Suzuki:
“Being in nature is good for all of us. People who get outside regularly are less stressed, have more resilient immune systems and are generally happier. And it’s good for our kids. Studies show spending time in nature or green spaces helps reduce the symptoms of ADHD.”
How does a grandparent, parent or other loving adult cultivate an interest in gardening among generation instant-gratification? Here are three tips in the plot to get them outside and into the soil.
Tips for Gardening with Kids
1. Build a sense of anticipation
Everyone looks forward to Christmas and summer vacation. Looking forward to gardening season is a cultural habit that needs to be shared. Seed catalogues — whether paper or online — along with seedlings starting in trays and the most delicate sprouts, are all fertilizer for creating a sense of excitement and wonder as gardening season approaches. When the season has already started, awaiting the asparagus to sprout, the rhubarb to redden, the strawberries to ripen are all part of sustaining interest. Sharing the rewards of each minor harvest with others helps to create a culture of giving that links gardening season to other major events in the children’s calendar.
2. Never complain about an activity that is ultimately pleasurable
Gardeners, like joggers or weightlifters, have a tendency to over-do it early in the season. As a result, it’s common for parents or grandparents to come in after a day in the garden – hungry, dirty and sunburnt – only to talk about an aching back or sore knees. It gives children the impression that gardening is a chore that takes a physical toll when it is ultimately a healthy and pleasurable activity. To communicate that idea, talk about how good you feel as a result of being outside using your body.
3. Start small
Assigning a child a plot of the garden to work by themselves is often seen as the first step in cultivating an interest in gardening. It’s a bit like being signed up for a 10K race when you’ve never pulled on a pair of running shoes. Instead, start with putting some seeds or seedlings in the ground and check on their progress every other day. Peas and beans are fast-growing and need only minimal care before their start to yield real food. Herbs and lettuces can also be trimmed by young gardeners looking to contribute to the daily salad.
None of this transfer of gardening culture is easy. The lure of interactive games and movies-on-demand is difficult for kids to resist. They really don’t know any other lifestyle. If all you can do is encourage the children in your life to pick a bouquet for an elderly neighbour, or to hire a pre-teen to cut your lawn, then you will be successful in supporting their being outside and helping to ensure their overall mental health.