Gardening and Your Preschooler
Unless you’ve been entirely out of the loop, you’d agree with me on the point that personal gardens have made a big comeback. Even heading to the grocery store on most days I’m bombarded by seed packets, fresh herb bunches, and soil to feed my flourish seedlings. Aside from being a very fruitful—pun intended—endeavor for me, gardening brings a sense of peace and calm to an otherwise stressful day, while providing nourishing food for my family. But the perks of gardening don’t stop there, for my preschooler especially having a garden has proven to be nothing but beneficial.
Particularly for those San Diego preschoolers, living in a world of near constant sunshine and warmth, gardening is an amazing way to get your preschooler outdoors and interacting with nature (more on that here). By having my toddler help with watering, weeding, and harvesting I help them observe, discover, experiment, nurture, and learn about the world around them. With observation and discovery comes the realization that plants, both big and small, must be cared for properly, and with this comes a growing sense of responsibility in your child. This sense of responsibility increases a toddler’s understanding and desire to nurture a positive environment for their plants and flowers, which in turn feeds their understanding of the world around them.
Additionally, studies have shown that toddlers that help with gardening early on in life develop and encourage the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Toddlers who help with gardening are less likely to question the green on our their dinner plates, and more likely to accept the vegetables that they themselves have not only grown, but picked for their meal.
Create A Toddler Friendly Garden
If you’re anything like me, the wholesome and healthful food benefits that come with gardening are reason enough to break out the hammer and nails to build your own planter boxes, before filling them with fresh soil and seeds to care for and grow. As mentioned above, the key here is to get your preschooler involved in the gardening to encourage their development, so follow along and find my tips for creating a toddler friendly garden.
If you’re a seasoned gardener then you know the importance of your tools. Likewise, it’s important for your toddler to see that their involvement in gardening is being taken seriously as well. Head to your local garden store and invest in a child’s sized trowel, rake, hoe, and gloves (try these here). Allowing your toddler to have their own tools shows them that you are supportive of their involvement in your garden.
A Space of Their Own
Whether you’re building your garden from scratch, or have one ready to roll, etch out a small square of space just for your toddler to do as they please. Never mind the attractiveness of the space, or whether it fits in with the overall aesthetic of your garden’s design, rather consider it a safe place for your toddler to garden in the way they see fit. Those artichokes can be grown right around the corner away from any possible damage your toddler may cause, leaving your prized blooms free and safe of harm.
Flowers, veggies, and fruits are all fine and well to grow, and some might even argue sturdier than herbs. While this may be true, planting herbs in your garden is full proof way to get your kids invested in planting. I, myself, can remember being a child and planting mint with my mother and looking forward to the moment when a sprig would be placed on my tongue, enveloping me in that fresh minty taste. If you’ve ever heard that smell is the best way to recall memory, it’s true, and some twenty-odd years later I can still recall those days in the garden with my mother. So will your child enjoy the scents and tastes of fresh rosemary, basil, thyme, and mint (your cat will thank you, too if you throw some catnip in there), and recall those memories for years to come.
When bringing your child into the gardening world, remember to always keep an eye on them. It may take a few times before your child gets the hang of working in their own special space, but if you turn a blind eye beforehand, you may find your blooms plucked before their time is ripe. While your preschooler will learn important developmental skills (such as responsibility) and spend time outdoors, I speak from experience when I say, that the best thing of all, is spending time with your toddler outdoors, doing something you love.