Must-Have Skill for Children #16: Gardening

Although kids are spending more time indoors with their digital screens, there has also been a rise in outdoor gardening—and for good reason. There are many benefits that are both immediate and long-term for your child. Some of these include better health, such as a stronger immune system from exposure to the microbes in dirt and a more balanced diet of fruits and vegetables. Others include a greater increase of success and happiness.

Here’s more on why gardening is this month’s Must-Have Skill for Children!

Self-Regulation and Discipline
The earlier your child starts working on their green thumb the better they will be able to regulate and discipline themselves. Growing plants is a very calming activity, but it also requires a lot of patience and care. The results are not immediate, but they are clear; when your child sees how a flower or plant blooms thanks to their attention and care, they will carry those habits to everything else in life. They will regulate their emotions, such as frustration and impatience, and discipline themselves to put in the time and effort for success even outside the garden. They already witnessed how it works through gardening, so they know they can accomplish other things, like acing a test or learning a song on the piano, in the same way.

Exercise and Motor Development
It’s important that your child remains active. They may spend a lot of their time studying at their desk or staring at a device. Make sure that they go out for enough exercise. Gardening may not seem as active as sports, but it does require a lot of movement in many different positions. This can be great for young children developing their motor skills and older children staying spry and active. Watering, weeding, and digging will keep their upper bodies strong while positions like squatting and walking do the rest. Keeping their mind busy with purposeful physical activity can also benefit their mental and emotional health.

Resistance to Perfectionism
With all this focus on achievements, perfectionism becomes a common problem for many children. Gardening is a relaxing, low-risk activity that can help your child fight off the need for everything to be perfect and within their control. They need to get their hands dirty and maintain attention to detail while taking care of their plants, but ultimately this is a soothing activity that they can learn from. With each and every failure—and there will be failures—your child can adjust how they take care of the plants as they learn more about each one. Does this need more sunlight? Does that need more frequent watering? It’s all a natural process, and sometimes, no matter how hard they work, things, such as the weather, will be out of their control. The same goes for projects, tests, and other hobbies.

Responsibility and Growth
Plants require varying degrees of attention and care so you can choose which ones are appropriate for your child’s age or skill level. Whether you choose a low-maintenance succulent or a delicate orchid, the plant will challenge your child to be more responsible. Your child will have to water the plants on time, check the soil, repot, relocate depending on the amount of sunlight throughout the day, and much more. Some of it can be routine but other tasks will require your child to judge based on their instinct, the circumstances, and past experiences. In the end, the plant will not be the only one experiencing growth.

Cognitive Development
Gardening will teach your child a lot about the environment and ecosystem. Gardening isn’t an activity that is only about the plants. It’s about the earth they grow out of, the insects that enrich the soil or spread the pollen, and the weather that governs life cycles. Seeing the bigger picture and how everything works together in gardening will prove to be a useful skill for your child. It will even translate to their academics, helping them better connect the dots at school and understand concepts like cause and effect. After all, gardening is a hands-on way of learning and scientists have found that the mycobacterium in soil can even boost brain functions!

Gardening is both a chance to learn and to bond with family, so start today with your child. Pick up some seeds or plants at a store near you. You could even purchase starter gardening kits or work with what’s already in your backyard. Try out a variety of plants, from flowers that can decorate your living space to vegetables you can eat for healthy dinners.

For other skills that will enrich your child’s life, check out our Must-Have series. Does your child need more help with schoolwork or can’t get enough of lifelong learning? Then make sure to check out our programs and contact a center near you to enroll your child in a JEI program today!