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Stop to smell the roses

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Gardening is a great way to destress and connect as a family, says Anjali Kalani

As we go about the hustle and bustle of our daily adult lives, trying to check everything off our to-do lists, we often forget to stop and literally smell the roses with our children. What better way to do this than to actually work on a garden together? Before you dismiss the idea of gardening as absurd because you live in an urban setting, know that you don't need a huge outdoor space to grow plants with your children—a patio, balcony or window sill will suffice.

Not only is gardening a great way to destress and connect as a family, but it has educational benefits for young children as well.  In fact, gardening is also a significant part of the Montessori curriculum for children aged three to six.

Here are some more reasons why you should make gardening a priority with your children

Helps build concentration and patience

Concentration is essential for academic success. A child who cannot focus on an activity will be less successful at learning. Gardening helps build children’s concentration. Adults can show children how to transfer soil into a pot with a shovel and then sow seeds. Children wait in anticipation for the shoots to grow and as a consequence learn patience.

Teaches language and science

Planting with children provides a hands-on way to learn about the life-cycle of plants. Adult-led conversations about planting enrich vocabulary and prepare children for learning botany in the future. Gardening is the ultimate sensory experience for young children—they get to touch, see and experience nature first-hand.

Teaches ownership and responsibility

Children develop a sense of responsibility and ownership when they garden. They also learn about natural consequences— if they don’t water their plants, the plants will die.

Health benefits

Gardening is a perfect way for children and adults to get much-needed Vitamin D. Children are also more likely to try new foods if they have grown the vegetables and fruits themselves.

Getting started

If your gardening skills are limited to arranging store-bought flowers in a vase, like mine used to be, have no fear. You can be successful at gardening with your children even if you have no prior experience! Here's how:

Gather supplies

An apron, gloves, soil, pots of different sizes, seeds, a shovel and a watering can are all you need to begin your gardening adventure. Don't forget sunscreen, gloves, a hat and insect repellant if you are outside!

Choose easy-to grow plants

Begin with seeds so children learn the life cycle of a plant. It is preferable to choose seeds that don’t take too long to produce results. I have been successful with radishes, beans, peas, kale, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, peppers and sunflowers. Experiment with other seeds and store-bought saplings once you are successful with growing a few plants from the seed stage. Herbs like mint and basil are also easy to grow.

Get planting

Give children their own pots and grow the selected seeds indoors. Make sure the plant gets enough sunlight, and show children how to water their plants. Transfer the saplings into larger containers and place outdoors. Make watering the plants the children's responsibility. Enjoy the fruits of your labour when the vegetables or fruits are ready to be harvested!

Although you maybe a novice at gardening, your family can reap many benefits from the activity. And in the bargain, you and your children might even cultivate a life-long hobby! As the poet Alfred Austin aptly summed it up, "The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul."

Anjali Kalani is mother of two independent, precocious children and an AMS and AMI certified Montessori guide who teaches children ages three to six in Houston, Texas.

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