Gardening is not just about fun, there are some real health, development and emotional benefits too. By Camilla Rankin
With the warmer and longer days, what could be better for your toddler than getting her hands dirty, playing with mud and splashing in water?
Check out these great reasons why you should start a garden with your toddler:
1. Gardening provides a multisensory experience
Young children learn about the world through their senses, and multisensory play is well known to stimulate brain development – think of it as brain food. Gardening delivers opportunities for sensory development in spades: from playing with sand, mud and water, and feeling grass on bare toes or spiky leaves on fingertips, to tasting and smelling different plants, herbs and vegetables.
2. It promotes bonding
Not only are you spending time with your child, but working side by side on a shared project helps to develop teamwork and an appreciation for each other. Youth development expert Evelyn Neier adds that gardening strengthens family relationships. “Just like a favourite family recipe, gardening tips are often handed down from generation to generation.”
3. Growing a garden teaches responsibility
Gardening is not a once-off activity – pots and beds need to be weeded and watered to survive, which teaches responsibility and offers the experience of nurturing something with your own hands. Your toddler will also get a self-esteem boost by being able to say, “I grew this all by myself.”
4. It teaches your toddler delayed gratification
Waiting for a plant to grow teaches your child patience and delayed gratification – skills many psychologists associate with success, achievement and emotional wellbeing.
5. It’s a fun backyard science experiment
Planting seeds, watching them grow and making compost helps children better understand the growth process, weather patterns and the environment. He will also learn where fresh food actually comes from – not only from a shopping trolley. Gardening is also a good lesson in cause and effect – if you don’t water your plant, it will wither and die.
6. It’s a great way to introduce your picky eater to new foods
“A vegetable garden makes it much easier to incorporate fresh vegetables into healthy meals,” explains Evelyn, “as children typically like to eat vegetables they grow and are proud to offer them to others.”
7. Getting dirty is good for your toddler
Gardening is all about getting your hands dirty – and now scientists are finding links between the natural bacteria, minerals and microorganisms found in soil, and overall health and longevity. Gastroenterologist Dr Robynne Chutkan, in her talk, “Live Dirty, Eat Clean!”, explains how getting dirty regularly exposes us to these beneficial microorganisms that help boost our immune systems and reduce allergies.
8. Your toddler will get a vitamin D boost
Vitamin D is produced by our bodies when we are exposed to sunshine. It helps our bodies to absorb calcium and phosphorus, which is essential for building and strengthening bones and muscles. Just remember sun protection.
9. It’s easy exercise
Lifting plants, buckets of soil and watering cans, raking, weeding and digging all require low-level activity, stretching and weight lifting, which help develop both gross and fine-motor skills – in a relaxing and fun way.
10. It’s fun to get away from the electronics for a while
Exposure to electronic gadgets causes a build-up of positive electrons that results in inflammation and disease, according to scientist Clinton Ober. He says touching the earth removes this extra charge, in the same way that it does with plug outlets. Gardeners are literally more “grounded”.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.