Play and Learn Through Gardening
Gardening for Child Play and Development
Gardening is a “free-of-charge” therapist. It is an activity where you can get down and dirty, unload stress, be one with nature and the Creator. Getting dirty is not mandatory but recommended. You may wear gloves or not, you may step into mud and feel it squish under your feet and between your toes, or not. You may get carried away in thought and spirit while unconsciously getting rid of weeds, cutting back shrubs, planting petunias or peas.
You may or may not do any of the above but you must wear sunscreen and a hat.
We often forget how good gardening makes us feel and we often underestimate the power of gardening when it comes to children and their needs.
Small hands plus big imaginations multiplied by loads of fun equal’s unparalleled development.
Any garden should stimulate the senses; it should be visually appealing with plenty of color, contrast and texture. Lovely aromas should fill the nose, the taste of home grown strawberries should burst in the mouth and the sound of singing birds should fill the ears.
So how to get children interested in gardening?
Safety always first; teach children young that not all plants are edible and point out the ones that are poisonousness. Show the little ones that some plants may have thorns and others may attract insects that may bite, sting or hurt them. Teach them how to use garden tools as well as how and for which injury to use the items in the first aid kit. Point out the dangers of uncovered swimming pools and water ponds. Set clear boundaries in regard to what they may and may not do and where they may and may not play.
Then comes the preparation for great family activities literally in your back yard.
Gardening as a family activity will promote bonding, responsibility, creativity, free play, sensory development and so much more.
Instead of being couch potatoes you can plant a few potatoes. By doing so you can step out of the imprisonment of the technological rut we live in.
Take a Saturday to visit your favorite nursery. Investigate and choose plants to buy. Get tools that are childproof; gloves, hats, water boots and sunscreen. Buy a book about a domestic edible garden.
And brace yourself – you will have to play to survive….
Then comes the big play and learn.
- Teach your child the fundamentals of a growing garden; how a seed develops in healthy soil with the addition of water, air, sunshine and LOVE.
- Plant a few seedlings; a green pepper, strawberry, mint and Petunia. Do not forget the Mary Gold alongside your food plants; bugs don’t like her smell and stays clear of the vicinity.
- Plant a tree to demonstrate how slow it grows and why we should plant more trees vs taking them out. Point out why we need trees and why we need to plant indigenous.
- Show them what weeds look like and how to remove them.
- Show them how much and when to water the garden.
- Guide them to creatively “design” the layout of their garden and to “plan before plant”.
- Teach them how to take care of their own small garden and how it develops.
Then; let them play in sand and bake in “the mud-kitchen”.
Let them pick flowers and chase butterflies.
Let them poke around the flower beds without damaging plants.
Let them search for earthworms and beetles.
Let them love, appreciate, respect, and build gardens.
Let them… let them… let them be…
Author: Annemarie Swanepoel