Tuesday, March 27, 2018

How Gardening Helps Kids Grow


This post is in partnership with Miracle-Gro and Bonnie Plants. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible. 

I grew up in a house and with a yard that were consistently lush with plants and gardens, thanks to a mother with an incredible natural ability to make things grow. And while this natural green thumb was (sadly) not passed down to me, the act of learning to garden as a child provided me with many long-term benefits. It also gave me a love of gardening (even if I'm not as good at it as my mother). Each year for the past few years, I have created simple container gardens of edible plants during the spring/summer. There has been a lot of trial and error, but I have slowly improved. And this year, I decided that it was time to really let my kids get involved in the process of creating our garden. I know from my own experiences as a child and from reading countless articles and studies that gardening provides endless benefits for children, so this has been almost as exciting for me as it's been for them!

I usually start our gardens in May, but when I saw that Bonnie Plants were already available at Walmart, I decided that this year, we'd get put the garden together earlier and start inside. (Side note: starting a garden inside when there is snow on the ground and freezing temperatures outside is so good for the soul, guys. Highly recommended.) It's been incredibly fulfilling to see my little ones show such enthusiasm about being involved with the project, and to get to watch the positive ways that, even in the beginning stages, our garden is already affecting them.


Today I thought I'd share some of the things I've learned about how gardening benefits kids, both from my own experience with them and from research I've done. I'm also sharing some of the first steps of us putting together this year's container garden. (And in a couple of months, I'll update you with how far it's come! See end of post for more on this.)


1. Gardening creates bonding time. I have a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old, who, despite my vow while pregnant with my first that they would not touch electronics until teenagers, adore screen time. Parents today have a whole new set of challenges as far as this goes. Working to encourage our kids to participate in hands-on, screen-free activities with their families is more important than ever. And one of the absolute best ways to do this is gardening. This is a project that we are working on together as a family, that is teaching them about communication, responsibility, and teamwork. From the act of picking out the supplies together to pouring Miracle-Gro Soil in the pots, to placing our Bonnie plants in the soil, to feeding them with Miracle-Gro Plant Food, to watering them and putting them in the sun, we've done everything together as a team.


2. Gardening promotes healthy eating. All of the Bonnie Plants we chose for our container garden (sweet basil, peppermint, garden sage, German thyme, and jalapeƱo) are edible. And teaching my kids that the foods they put in their bodies should come from the earth instead of packages is a big deal to me. My kids, like most (unless you are really lucky, which I admittedly am not), prefer candy to vegetables or herbs. But I noticed last year that Essley wanted to eat things like cherry tomatoes (which we'll be planting in a couple of months) and basil every day because she was so intrigued by the fact that they grew on our patio. Now that she is into helping us cook as well, she's especially excited for our herbs to grow so that she can not only eat them, but incorporate them into meals and recipes with us.


3. Gardening teaches kids responsibility. My 4-year-old daughter understands the concept of responsibility, but like all small children, needs hands-on examples to really be able to grasp it. The act of putting together a garden and the process of taking care of it is a fantastic way to provide this type of example. Essley understands that our plants need to get proper amounts of sunlight, water, and food (like Miracle-Gro Plant Food) in order for them to survive and flourish, and that it is up to us to make sure that they get it. She actually asks me daily if they need more food or water, which makes my heart swell.


4. Gardening encourages outdoor time. As I mentioned above in #1, screens dominate children's lives today more than ever. And sadly, outdoor play, which is essential to children's brain development and physical health, makes up a much smaller portion of kids' daily lives than in the past. While our current container garden is still indoors (because it's still cold in Chicago, booo), in the next month or so it will be moved outside, and we'll tend to it daily outdoors. Containers/pots tend to dry out much more quickly than in ground gardens or raised beds, so everyday my daughter and I will go outside to check on and water the plants. Just the act of getting outside to do this encourages her and her brother to stay outside, get fresh air, run, and simply be kids.


5. Gardening teaches science and math. They are just beginning to touch on math concepts in my daughter's preschool, and being able to bring these lessons into our daily life in a practical way is incredibly beneficial. On planting day, she counted the number of Bonnie Plants we'd purchased and made sure to pull aside the correct numbers of pots. When we feed the plants, together we measure out the proper amount of Miracle-Gro Plant Food. Once a week we measure how much the plants have grown. Even though we used plants that were ready-to-grow, the fact that plants grow from seeds, need sunlight, water, and food to grow into bigger plants, etc., also helps children get a grasp of beginning science.


6. Gardening teaches patience. If the kids in your life are anything like mine, patience is likely not their strongest skill. It's also challenging to verbally explain patience to a small child. Gardening takes time, and so does the process of a tiny plant growing into a mature one. My daughter gets such satisfaction over seeing these herbs she helped plant grow. And even though she asks me almost everyday how much longer it will be before they're ready to eat, she is becoming more and more aware of the fact that practicing patience and enjoying the process will make the end result even more appreciated.


If you're thinking of planting a container garden (with kids or without!), go for it! I promise it is easier than you think. I recommend going to Walmart.com and ordering some Bonnie Plants, Miracle-Gro Soil, and Miracle-Gro Plant Food, (and some pots if you don't have any on hand), or visiting your local Walmart Garden Center. The Bonnie Plants we ordered were wonderful because the containers are biodegradable, so we just watered them well, removed the wrappers, and put them into the pots we'd filled with Miracle-Gro Soil. My family used Miracle-Gro when I was growing up (they've been around for 150+ years!), so they're my go-to brand. And they help grow plants two to three times as big! The combination of Bonnie Plants and Miracle-Gro Soil and Plant Food is the best way I've found to make your garden a success (even if it hasn't been in the past), and it also makes the whole process simple - which is perfect when you're gardening with kids.


Have you ever gardened with your kids, and/or did you enjoy gardening as a child? I'd love to hear your experiences as well. And my plan is to update this post in a couple of months to show you how our garden is doing, so be sure to check back!

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6 comments:

  1. I love this post so much! I have great memories of planting with my parents too.

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  2. What sweet time together!!! I love those plants!! SO ready for Spring Planting!

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  3. I also haven’t inherited the green thumb but I’m going to make attempts to grow a veggie garden myself.

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  4. What a wonderful positive activity to do together!

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  5. This is adorable! It reminds me so much of my childhood planting flowers with my grandfather!

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  6. My kids love to get their hands dirty and they are also fascinated by what Mother Nature does to make our world so beautiful! Time to pull out our gardening gloves and get planting!
    xo Debbie | www.tothineownstylebetrue.com

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