When we talk about “gardening” with children, we are embracing a whole variety of concepts and lessons that are important to growing minds. Gardening is the coming together of the four parts of our world; earth, water, air and the miracle of life! When you teach children to garden, you teach them about soil and its composites of dirt, sand, clay and nutrients. They learn about water and hydration; and that all life forms including plants, animals and humans rely on plenty of clean water to survive. This leads to discussions about rain, rivers, lakes, oceans, evaporation and clouds. Kids learn about the need for plants to have sunlight and fresh air to grow and thrive, just like people do. And of course, we introduce them to the magic of life; how tiny seeds grow into myriad types of colorful and strong plants; flowers, trees, fruits and vegetables.
Gardening is a super educational activity to do with young children because it is inherently safe and… fun! What young child doesn’t like to squish their hands around in dirt, adding water and making mud? Give them a flower-pot and a packet of seeds, and voila – their little mudpies are now gardens! You can wait a few years to buy them a roto-tiller! Letting children know that if they put their pot of dirt and seeds where its sunny, and add a little water each day, that in just a few days the’ll see new bright green sprouts spring up from the dirt, on their way to becoming beautiful (or tasty) plants. As the little sprouts grow a child will be thoroughly engaged in the process, and interested in learning about weeds, fertilizers and helpful bugs like bees and worms. And don’t you worry about “chemicals”; there are many natural, edible, organic and other non-toxic fertilizers and pesticides (like liquid soap – or even beer) you can teach your children to use to help their plants to thrive without harmful chemicals.
Some of the flowers and veggies you plant with your children will bloom or be edible in just a week or two. Others take longer but then produce satisfying flowers and edible veggies for weeks or months. Combining the two of them in your child’s garden will give them the quick thrill of the fast growers as well as the long term benefits of vegetable plants and perennials that will return to delight year after year. While you wait for your child’s seeds to grow, you can get on the computer to teach your child about the seeds they planted, the care they need and the mature plants they will grow to be. That way your child can follow along with their plant’s growth, and recognize important developmental milestones as the plants mature. Think about what fun it would be to plant a fruit tree in your garden, and take pictures of your child and the tree every year as they grow together into maturity! And small potted plants grown by your child (wrapped in a colorful bow) make great family gifts, too !
Prime Time Early Learning Centers understands the value of teaching children about gardens and growing their own flowers and vegetables. Prime Time’s Growing Green curriculum teaches children to become good global citizens by teaching them about nature, animals, plants and people, and the importance of protecting the land, air and water that sustains them all. Prime Time Early Learning Centers in Paramus NJ serves the surrounding communities of Oradell and Ridgewood. Prime Time Centers in Edgewater, East Rutherford and Hoboken NJ also teach children through gardening and nature studies, as well as through educational butterfly hatching, recycling programs and zoo visits.