How does your garden grow?
Recently I’ve started gardening with my nine year old daughter and it’s been so lovely. My daughter and I, luckily, have a great relationship anyway – I know it will all change as she hits the teenage years! – but this has given us time away from the indoors and helped us connect in a different way.
I started reading up on why it’s so important for children to garden and it turned out that it’s quite trendy these days. Let’s get the obvious reasons out of the way – by gardening, you’re taking the children away from screens! I know lots of you are always on the lookout for new hobbies for your children that might engage them more than a screen so it might be worth giving gardening a try!
We chatted leisurely in the sunshine whilst we weeded – delegating tasks to each other depending on proximity to said weed or the weed bag and because we weren’t directly looking at each other as in a normal conversation, it was easier for me to ask some more probing questions about friendship groups, concerns about the next year at school and the like; and because she wasn’t looking directly at me, it was clear that she felt comfortable being more open than usual in her replies.
She and I shared ideas on what we should plant where and discussed the conditions that each plant needed – it felt like teamwork rather than a senior/junior relationship. It turns out that listening to and acting upon your children’s opinions really helps to boost their confidence: you’re taking them seriously and considering their viewpoint which could help their self-belief in, say, classroom discussion. By giving her viewpoint credibility and not dismissing it, she cared more about the outcome too. She lovingly planted the seeds and small plants and it was clear to see that paying them this care and attention at the outset, would continue throughout their cultivation and growth. She felt responsible.
And of course, she was learning throughout. She wasn’t just receiving an education on the seeds and plants and the environment that they need to grow but about organisation of the veg patch – she carefully decorated these wooden spoons to denote where each veg had been planted – planning (which plants need more sunlight than others etc), patience and respect for the earth … and the Earth. It was a physical challenge too as we dug, carried, pulled – you don’t realise how strenuous it is until you wake up the next day!
I hope this interest continues to her plate! Some of the seeds she planted were for vegetables that she doesn’t normally like, spinach, courgettes, tomatoes but I’m hoping that she might give them a go now that she been involved in nurturing them!
When I was a nanny, I didn’t do much gardening with my charges but now I’m wondering why! You don’t need a lot of space – a pot will do – and you could be growing all sorts. Herbs are great because they grow quickly and have such great smells and flavours, and flowers are fun to plant because of the colours, delicacy and such variety. Giving children the responsibility of planting and caring for something early on is bound to have a positive impact in later life and, hopefully, it will start healthy habits and respect for the outdoors.
Here’s what Alex Thurman from Feed the Brood has to say on the subject too …
“If you’ve got fussy eaters, growing food from seed or seedling is a fab way to switch up the status quo and instigate fun around food. Eating the food and enjoying it is probably a long way off (OK duly noted Alex!), but having involvement in sowing, watering and harvesting will contribute hugely to a positive attitude towards food and will provide you with lots of lovely talking points at the dinner table.
At this time of year, rocket, courgettes, tomatoes and strawberries are all fairly easy to grow and You Tube is full of helpful little videos for growing if, like me, you lack green fingers. There are few greater pleasures than seeing the children run into the garden after school to inspect whether our strawberries have ripened over the course of the day. A strawberry plant is a long-term investment – we’ve had ours for three years now and with a little bit of attention, it’s given my three children a couple of strawberries each day for the last week or so and there are plenty more to come – perfect for the hot weather we’ve been having lately!”
So, what’s stopping you? Start with a pot and a strawberry plant and see where it takes you! It’s great for children but also serves as great mindfulness for adults … but that’s a whole other blog!