Gardening magic!

Operation: Create an outdoor play wonderland - Phase 3

Gardening Magic!

The whole idea behind 'Operation: Create an outdoor play wonderland'  is to challenge myself to make the very most of the (limited) space we have. Although I am by no means a 'gardener', I love being surrounded by plants, and have always felt the importance of incorporating gardening into the everyday life of our child. You can check out one of my favourite Pinterest boards: Kids' Gardening Ideas for a growing collection of inspiring gardening ideas for kids. 

Why is it so great for children to be exposed to and involved in gardening?

1. Lifelong appreciation of gardening: People who have picked vegetables, taken care of plants, or lived next to a garden in childhood are more likely to continue gardening as they age and to form lasting positive relationships with gardens and trees (Lohr & Pearson-Mims, 2005; cited in Children and Nature Network Fact Sheet #3 Feb.2009 here)

2. Healthy eating habits can be formed and nurtured by children growing their own herbs, vegetables and fruit. They can also become more interested in food and cooking in general ( ... this is certainly true for us - our mini masterchef can't get enough of cooking - and his favourite foods are probably tomatoes and blueberries)

3. Curiosity in science: Watching and learning about plants and gardening can help foster a curiosity in science and understanding the world around us. (...learning of plant life cycles, and that plants are living things, requiring air, sun, water and a bit of TLC! ...)

4. Hand skills: grasping and in-hand manipulation skills (brushing or washing dirt off vegies/leaves, picking out weeds, , using tools (watering cans, hoses, pots, shovels, ...), bilateral coordination (using tools, picking fruit/veg/herbs from plants...), tactile sensory awareness (dirt, mulch, leaves, fruit, water...) 

5. Family bonding time and language development!
6. Physical activity and fresh air being outdoors! Did you know, that "research indicates that children who spend time outdoors in natural, green spaces have reduced symptoms of attention-deficit disorder and ADHD"? (National Gardening Association)

7.  A sense of responsibility and self esteem - how wonderful does it feel to know that you've helped make dinner - from scratch!!

8. Patience - it is a hard but important lesson to learn, that we need to wait until tomatoes turn red before we get to pick them (or yellow, depending on which of our pots we are talking about)!

9.  So many art and craft activities which can utilise plants from the garden.

10. It's relaxing, and let's not forget that kids can get stressed too!!

... Plus...the smell of fresh herbs is incredible! (...not to mention, they are fabulous for play cooking outside and little 'small world' creations)

Ways of getting kids involved in gardening: 

Here's a list of ideas from the  Horticultural Therapy Association of Victoria :

-Preparing the soil with organic fertiliser
-Planting vegetables, fruits and flowers in the correct season
-Watering the garden
-Gathering seeds and dried flowers
-Deadheading flowers
-Replanting and re-potting
-Composting, recycling and mulching
-Using the worms from the worm farm
-Craft activities from harvested seeds, plants and flowers.
-Picking vegetables and fruits when they are ready to eat
-Preparing food
-Healthy cooking, making salads and school lunches 

So far, our favourite gardening activities for our toddler include: 

-emptying pots
-exploring the strainer effect of pots (see post here where they were used during an outdoor bath!)
-washing pots, filling watering cans and other containers/pourers and watering plants (as the value of water play is undeniable).
-picking tomatoes
-waiting for, hunting for, then identifying the vegetables/fruits as they appear and grow
-watching tomatoes change colour
-washing the tomatoes (yep - it's all about tomatoes during the season!!!)
-weeding and collecting the weeds in a bucket
-sweeping up the mess
-finding little surprises ('jewel rocks' or little animal figurines) in the pots
How to set up a garden in a small space:
-Pots, pots and more pots! (We basically lined our fence with large tub pots for tomatoes and herbs, and dotted a few other pots around the outdoor area)
-hanging baskets
-vertical gardens - (we are yet to set up and plant ours... I'm thinking of using one of those wardrobe hanging sheets with plastic pockets - usually meant for jewellery or shoes or ties ... )
-don't stress over not having space - just plant! ...anywhere!!  We have a small little garden bed near the front door to our unit, which, despite its size, has grown so much over the few years we have lived here!! - Parsley, rocket, rosemary, lavender, pumpkins, capsicums, chillis, eggplants, sweet potatoes, basil, oregano, chives, strawberries, mint, ...

I would love to hear what your little one's favourite gardening activity is!

If you enjoyed this post, you may be interested in these other Kids' Play Space posts documenting the transformation of our mini concrete jungle into a more natural play wonderland for our 2 year old to enjoy:
Follow the Fenceline Brick RoadLadybird tyre and bottle top insect friends 

Thanks for visiting Kids' Play Space!
'til soon,
happy playing,



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