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Gardening with Children Reaps Many Benefits

By Nancy Olsen-Harbich


Children of preschool age and older can reap many benefits from helping out in the garden. Learning how to help plants grow, can foster responsibility and patience in children. Families can become closer as children and parents share a common interest they can work on together.

To reap the full benefits of gardening with children, take them through the whole process from seed to soil to supper. Go together to the garden center to choose seeds, plants, and tools. Let children dig holes for seeds and plant some. Appoint children as official gardening helpers. Appropriate gardening activities for children aged 3 to 5 include collecting picked weeds, looking through soil to pick out rocks and pebbles, and supervised harvesting. If possible, let children help in preparing food from the garden.

Start Out Simple

Certain plants are easy to grow and sprout rather quickly so they can be harvested within one season. Sugar snap peas, beans, and pumpkins are good choices for beginning gardeners because the seeds are large and easy to handle. Jack-B-Little pumpkins are usually dependable and can be fun for children, who are too young to carve, to decorate at Halloween. Other easy-to-grow choices are radishes, carrots, leaf lettuce, patio varieties of tomatoes, herbs, marigolds, nasturtiums, and strawflowers.

Avoid great expectations. Children’s gardens won’t necessarily look like those designed by adults. The rows may not be straight and a few weeds may remain. Relax and revel in your child’s anticipation and excitement as the garden grows.

For safety reasons, children should not eat anything from the garden before they show it to an adult first. Avoid pesticides, especially on plants to be eaten. Make sure to wash all produce from the garden before it is eaten. Also, always have children wash their hands thoroughly after working in the garden.

Multiple Benefits

Besides produce to eat and flowers to admire, gardens can give you and your child multiple benefits:

  • Children may be more likely to eat vegetables that they grow themselves.
  • Planting a garden serves as a science lesson. Children see how the natural world works its wonders, how seasons change, and time marches on. .
  • Tending a garden teaches responsibility, concentration, and patience.
  • As the garden grows, so do children’s confidence and satisfaction of a job well done.
  • If results are less than expected, use that as an opportunity to teach children how to cope with disappointment and how to overcome obstacles by trying a new technique or different plant next year.

Nancy Olsen-Harbich is a Human Development Specialist at Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Suffolk County. For information about parenting programs or about gardening programs for children, call CCE at 631-727-7850.


One Response to “ Gardening with Children Reaps Many Benefits ”

  • david sanders

    Enjoying your excellent blog.
    Wish to let you know about our latest book, My Garden – My Friend, a collection of passionate and adventurous stories and poems written by keen young gardeners. It was a pleasure, for me, to faithfully illustrate their wonderful stories.
    The book will soon be available on Amazon.
    Thanks, David

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