Green Fingers – How gardening can engage your child’s brain and improve their wellbeing.

Gardening can engage your child’s brain and improve their wellbeing, writes the Headmistress of St Nicholas Preparatory School

Everyone appreciates that getting children into the great outdoors on a more regular basis is good for them. How many parents, however, realise that gardening can be great for children’s education as well as their health?

Being in moment
Adults use gardening as a kind of therapy, a way to clear their minds. It’s no different for children. Gardening is the perfect antidote to sitting in a classroom and an ideal way to relieve stress – and don’t forget that children certainly can and do get stressed. Being able to calm yourself when feeling upset is a useful life skill. Children can learn to step back from whatever it is bothering them when they garden. It teaches them to be patient as they wait for their plants or vegetables to grow and it also encourages mindfulness.

Gardening not only helps children relieve accumulated stress – it can also reduce stress before it becomes too much of a problem. If a child knows they can be calm when they need to be, then they can learn to grapple with problems before they become too big. In short, gardening can give children space to ‘be in the moment’. Amid the frantic pace of everyday life and its endless technological distractions, learning how to ‘be in the moment’ is a very valuable skill indeed.

Confidence booster
Gardening also has a positive effect on a child’s confidence. Planting a seed and watching it grow, knowing that they have made this happen, is a simple but incredibly effective lesson. Encouraging children to go back every so often to check on a plant’s progress and knowing that they are responsible for it gives a child immense satisfaction. They can see that they have created something from almost thing, and that provides a massive boost to their self -esteem.

Understanding food
Not all children have the opportunity to know where their food comes from – apart from knowing it can be bought in a supermarket. Even those children who are aware that fruit and vegetables are grown, picked, and sold to the shops in order for the consumers to buy them may still not be able to visualise the process.

If it’s possible, allow children to have their own patch of garden. They can then plant their own crops, watch the process from beginning to end and they eat the result. It will make them more careful about what they eat and encourage them to question where their food comes from, enabling them to make healthier food choices as they get older.

Connecting with nature
Getting your hands dirty is essential in gardening and in this instance connecting dirt with children comes with benefits! Feeling the soil, holding the seeds, and finding creatures under the vegetation will show the child that there is more to the world than they first imagined. It will allow them to make connections, to question more, to want to know more.

Getting exercise
Finally, gardening provides moderate exercise, which is great – we would all like to see children being a lot more active. The thing with gardening, and the reason it can tear children away from the TV or their tablet, is that it is also engaging. It is interesting. It doesn’t feel like exercise. Gardening is surprisingly physical, and it can work wonders on a child’s health and wellbeing. Just breathing in fresh air more often is a great start.

This article was originally published for schoolreportonline.com

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