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Oct 24, 2016 Garden4Me News

The benefits of gardening with your grandchildren

Gardening with your grandchildren might have the obvious benefits of tidying up your plot and keeping the kids occupied, but you are helping them to develop life skills, too.

Anyone who has gardened with children will know what a pleasure it is to pass on skills and see the next generation developing a passion for planting.

There may be the odd moment where “weeding” decimates your new bedding plants or a snail collection is released en masse into the veg patch, but research shows we should stick with it as experts increasingly point to the value children get from gardening and being outside.

These benefits range from the chance to be active and get away from the omnipresent screens, to real mental health gains.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) suggests children perform better at school if they’re involved with gardening, and many will develop a greater interest in healthy eating if they get to grow their own veg.

The society has also found through its partnership with schools (via the RHS Campaign for School Gardening and the RHS School Gardeners of the Year competition) that children who get digging and watering build life skills such as confidence, teamwork and communication.

Caroline Levitt, who founded the Diggers Forest School and Nursery near Midhurst, West Sussex, believes the benefits of outdoor work even for the smallest children are huge. She says: “Children can learn so much and have fun, too”.

“Gardening involves lots of different activities, such as design of the garden and choice of what to plant, and it can be a good team or friendship building exercise, as they take turns to water plants and share the weeding. This is also a good way to learn responsibility.

“Gardening can also be a fantastic sensory experiment, handling dry earth or gloopy mud and even worms! It is a great way for children to naturally learn patience while they watch their produce grow.”

Ms Levitt adds that gardening is useful for stimulating creativity. “We get them thinking about the design of the layout and in terms of how seeds are planted – for example, neatly in rows or thrown into a pot.

“We plant flowers in addition to veg and discuss colours, and the height plants will grow to, plus point out the different smells of herbs.”

Gardening for children is also closely linked to feelings of well-being. The healthcare think tank The King’s Fund produced the report Gardening and Health in 2016, which found that most qualitative studies in this area reported positive well-being effects on children, including in terms of personal achievement, pride and empowerment through growing food and being involved in gardening.

For children with learning or behavioural difficulties, fulfilling non-academic tasks and roles seemed to be particular sources of achievement and worth. They also found gardens to be “peaceful places” conducive to meditation.

“At Diggers,” says Ms Levitt, “our own experiences have shown that children leave our sessions calm, happy and enlightened with renewed energy – as though they have been recharged, but not in a hyperactive way.

“These children would have started the session lethargic, grumpy and generally in a lacklustre mood, especially if the weather has prohibited them from getting outside to play during the school day.”

She believes one of the most important factors is the sense of knowledge passing down from generation to generation. She says: “It can sow a seed of inspiration within these children that one day will develop into a need to immerse themselves in nature just as our ancestors did through the centuries – giving the children the inner strength to cope with whatever life throws at them.”

The above is an extract from an article published in the Telegraph

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