If you were lucky enough to have access to a garden as a child, you might have fond memories of playing on swings, helping to grow vegetables and running off all that energy. If you’ve got children of your own, having a safe, outdoor space for them to play in is probably one of the key things you looked for when choosing your home.
With children spending more and more time on devices, being outside in the fresh air has never been so important. Ofcom estimates that, on average, children as young as 3 are spending 3 hours a day in front of the screen, rising to 6.5 hours for teenagers. Screens definitely have their advantages, but it’s really important for children to get outdoors, breathe in the fresh air and ignite their senses too.
In this article, we’ll look at the benefits of gardens and how they can help to aid children’s development.
How do gardens benefit children’s development?
From being outside in the fresh air and soaking up vitamin D, to improving their fitness and reducing stress, gardens boast a huge wealth of benefits for children. Here are 8 ways that spending time in the garden can help to aid children’s development:
1. Helps to develop social skills
Anyone who’s ever gardened will know that it takes patience, responsibility and plenty of care to get the best results. From planting a small seed to watching it grow and develop, each stage needs to be carefully managed.
Gardening for kids has several benefits. Spending time in the garden and helping to plant vegetables and care for flowers is a great way to aid and improve children’s self-confidence. They can feel really proud about their achievements and a real sense of responsibility in having to keep a living thing alive!
Studies have shown that spending time in green spaces, including gardens, helps to increase prosocial behaviour among children and adolescents, helping to promote harmonious relationships with others.
2. Boosts sensory development
From squelchy mud and brilliant birdsong to fragrant flowers and slimy snails, every journey into the garden is a full-on sensory adventure.
Spending time in the garden is one of the easiest ways for children to explore nature and experience the sensory stimulation that it offers. Walking on soft grass, touching flowers, smelling the huge variety of scents and hearing the buzzing of bees are all important actions that will aid their sensory development. It’s a great way to help all children make sense of the world they live in.
Gardening also helps to boost proprioceptive sensory input, pushing a wheelbarrow, pulling up weeds, carrying plant pots and digging holes all help to improve coordination and posture.
Zoned sensory gardens provide an effective way to help children with special educational needs and sensory processing disorders, helping them to engage with the setting and utilise their sensory stimulation as well as their physical and social skills.
3. Encourages healthy eating
Few things are better than growing and eating your own food and knowing exactly where our favourite fruit and vegetables come from. For children, discovering how plants germinate and seeing how long they take to grow and bear fruit is an important part of life.
It’ll also help them to develop a taste for healthy, fresh food and encourage them to eat those green veggies. Peas taste infinitely better when they’re freshly popped out of a pod!
Having easy access to fresh raspberries, strawberries, delicious peas and crunchy carrots will also help to increase their daily fruit and vegetable intake. Even if you don’t have access to a large garden or allotment, you can grow successfully grow vegetables in containers.
4. Offers educational advantages
A garden provides a perfect learning environment for children. They can learn about the seasons, see how the weather affects the plants, watch birds build their nests and spot caterpillars and butterflies.
Whether they’re writing labels for newly planted seeds or watching tadpoles metamorphose into frogs, a garden offers endless learning opportunities.
Learning about different plants and being able to identify different insects are skills they’ll use throughout their lives and it’s a wonderful way to teach them about respecting nature and the environment that we share with so many other living creatures.
5. Improves fitness and enhances sporting ability
Even if your garden is small, there are so many ways that gardens can help to improve children’s fitness and sporting abilities. From practising football to throwing and catching, and honing their skipping skills, you don’t need a huge space for kids to get active outdoors.
Try chalking an old-fashioned hop-scotch grid onto the patio (I bet you can’t resist having a go too), setting up a ‘how many balls can you get into a bucket?’ challenge or making fun obstacle courses.
You can also get them gardening! Weeding, raking and watering plants use different muscle groups and are a great way to get their bodies moving and some handy gardening chores done too!
6. Reduces stress
Studies have shown that gardening and spending time in green spaces has numerous mental health benefits for children, including stress reduction and improved cognitive development.
Just being outdoors in the open is enough to make a difference and if children want to be more active, the gentle exercise that gardening provides is enough to boost cortisol levels and improve their mood.
7. Nurtures creativity
There are few places where you can let your children run wild and not have to worry about it but the garden is definitely one of them! Let them experiment by concocting magical garden potions, building sandcastles and mud pies and creating wild dens.
It’s such a brilliant way for children to learn about nature and have fun and it doesn’t need to cost a penny.
Some no-cost creative ideas include making a wild picture or themed flat lay with whatever garden objects they can find, making handmade windchimes, building bug hotels and turning outgrown footwear into planters.
8. Fosters a lifelong love of nature
We all know about the impact of climate change and the devastating consequences it’s having on our natural world. Helping children to understand how we can all play a small part to help, from planting trees and bee-friendly plants and learning all about how important insects are will help them to develop a lifelong love of and respect for nature.
There’s no doubt that spending time in a garden is hugely beneficial to children’s development and will help them to develop strong, lifelong skills. If you don’t have access to a garden, children will gain the same benefits from playing in a park or green space.
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