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Little green thumbs

With the onset of spring, it’s time to head outside and enjoy the activities that you’ve been dreaming about over the last few months. From riding bikes and beach trips, to camping and kayaking down the river, warm weather brings an abundance of fun adventures that the whole family can enjoy.

A great way to get your kids outside while giving them more than just some fresh air and fun is to get them involved in gardening. Kids are naturally curious and most of them don’t mind getting dirty (in fact, they usually enjoy it), which means that they’re already well on their way to becoming great gardeners. To those of us who struggle to keep even a cactus alive, don’t worry! Gardening doesn’t have to be difficult or overcomplicated. There’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple! Just Google “simple gardening for beginners” and you’ll be off to a great start.

If you’re looking for a little help from an expert, then you’re in luck. Jonah Curtis at Oaklawn’s Life Improvement Center holds a wonderful summer gardening program for kids that teaches them the basics of gardening in the community garden while also providing them with the gratification of picking and eating their very own produce. You would be amazed at how excited kids get when they plant a seed that turns into a vegetable (plus he gives them popsicles after breaking a sweat so it’s a win-win)!

Although there are many obvious benefits of gardening, there are also a lot of not-so-obvious reasons that gardening is a great hobby for kids.

(1) Nutrition
Showing kids where their food comes from and getting them involved in the process helps them build healthier eating habits.

(2) Confidence
We all know that self confidence is crucial and gardening is often seen by children as an adult activity. Gardening helps build confidence by showing a child that they are capable of planting a seed, taking care of it, and watching it grow into something beautiful. It’s a pretty cool process and giving a child this rewarding responsibility can be very empowering.

(3) Relaxation
Gardening is a healthy outlet for children and adults alike! It provides you with quiet time outdoors where you can think and enjoy some alone time while tending to your plants. For children, this is an outlet that they will often carry with them into adulthood.

(4) Focus & Memory
According to Garden Organic, consistent gardening can improve alertness, cognitive abilities and social skills. For children suffering from ADHD, not only are symptoms minimized by time outdoors, but there’s even greater improvement when that time outside involves a specific activity (like gardening)!

(5) Creativity
You can encourage creativity by having your child keep a gardening journal. They can document their garden by drawing pictures of how their plants change, taking measurements of how much their plants have grown, and writing about it.

Now that you know just a few of the benefits of gardening, we have some additional tips for making this activity fun for your child!

(1) Make sure they have time to discover! If they want to stop and look at a bug or admire a cool rock, then let them! Gardening isn’t about racing to the finish line.

(2) Give them the tools they need. If you’re short on gardening supplies, take them with you to get your gear. This will allow them to be involved in the process from the very beginning! Extending beyond the physical tools that are needed to maintain a garden, use this as an opportunity to truly teach them about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Knowledge is power, and this is an activity that can provide them with lifelong skills!

(3) Provide positive feedback. We all know that words of affirmation go a long way, so don’t hesitate to praise them for their gardening abilities.

(4) Start with plants that give quick results. Gardening is very rewarding, but it does require a certain level of patience (something that most kids don’t have an abundance of). Starting with the plants that produce quick results is exciting and will help keep kids motivated as they wait for the slower plants to grow.

(5) Get dirty and have fun!

To learn more about the children’s gardening program offered at OLIC, call Jonah at (269) 781-7585.