March 26, 2014: A Children’s Garden

~ by Mary Galvano

Just recently I discovered something my daughter loves to do…garden. It didn’t occur to me at first when she was constantly digging in the dirt and watering it with her little water pail. On occasion she would laughingly throw dark dirt on her mommy and daddy while they were trying to rock in the rocking chairs on the front porch. But then a light bulb came on, for what I took at first as mere child’s play I came to realize as a true interest in gardening. She loves flowers and smelling them and exploring Mother Nature. We get excited when we see a butterfly or a green tree frog hop by.

Gardening is a wonderful activity to do with children. And the sooner they start the better. It is calming and teaches little ones how to take care of God’s creations. My mother is an expert in this field as she taught me how to garden at a very young age, which helped me to really appreciate nature. Mom also started a Children’s Horticulture Club in Fort Myers at the St. Francis Xavier prayer garden and years ago started a club for children in NYC who had never even seen a blade of grass before. Bringing children, and adults, together in the fresh outdoors in a calm environment without all the distractions of technology is what we all need today.

I don’t’ quite have the green thumb that my mother has, but thanks to Mom I can pass along the art of gardening and the love of nature to my little girl. It is so important to keep doing healthy hobbies like gardening so you can pass them along to future generations. We all need to get involved in healthy activities. Gardening is good for families, too.

“Children typically like to eat vegetables they grow and are proud to offer them to others. Being able to come to the table and say ‘I grew that lettuce’ can be a real boost to a child’s self esteem,” said Neier, who is a Kansas State University Research and Extension 4-H your development specialist.

Sadly, too many kids spend most of their summer time indoors, playing video games or watching TV. This lack of contact with nature can negatively affect these children’s health, well-being, and academic performance, say experts.

There are so many reasons why kids should garden. Here are only five taken from the Seasonal Wisdom blog.

1) Prevents Nature Deficit Disorder: With so many kids spending time away from nature, we’re seeing evidence of a “nature deficit disorder” in many children. As Richard Louv explained in his book, Last Child in the Woods, this disconnect from nature is leading some kids to become overweight, anxious and depressed. Plus, this nature deficit disorder is affecting children’s performance in school too. To make sure this doesn’t happen to your kids, be sure to unplug the electronic gadgets regularly, and involve your family more in the garden.

2) Teaches About Nature … and More: Maybe it’s growing a sunflower from seed or building a bean teepee in the backyard. But when you involve kids in gardening, they learn hands-on skills that broaden their awareness of the world around them. They learn why butterflies and bees help pollinate plants. And why the right amounts of water and sun are needed to get gardens to grow. Along with a greater appreciation for nature, gardens can also teach kids about biology, math, history, nutrition and more.

3) Gives Them Exercise: Gardening provides lots of healthy ways for kids to stay active and healthy. Between digging, raking and planting, your children will get plenty of exercise, vitamin D and fresh air. Be sure to make your garden chores creative, and mix them up a bit so they stay interesting. With a little patience, you’ll find your children will become helpful and fun assistants in the garden.

4) Encourages Kids To Eat Produce: Ask any parent with a vegetable garden. The kids that grow up around homegrown vegetables are much more likely to eat them too. Maybe it’s because kids enjoy picking fresh beans or tomatoes. Or perhaps it’s because fresh fruit and vegetables simply taste better just picked from your yard. But whatever the reason, gardening is an excellent way to help solve the problem that most U.S. children are not eating enough fresh fruit and vegetables. Try it yourself and report the results.

5) Prepares Them for Life: There’s something magical about gardening. The tiny seeds that grow into healthy, big plants; the birds that swoop down to capture a juicy worm; the end of the growing season when the plants start to die back for winter; all these lessons can be a wonderful reminder to be patient while things grow, and to keep the faith when some things die away. Besides, as human beings our brains are wired to be out in nature. Perhaps that’s why it’s feels so natural to be out there.

A garden can also be a classroom: Gardening offers hands-on, experiential learning opportunities in a wide array of disciplines, including the natural and social sciences, math, language arts (e.g., through garden journaling), visual arts (e.g., through garden design and decoration), and nutrition. With recent concern over relatively weak science and math skills among American children, the need for innovation in science and math teaching is apparent. There is mounting evidence that students who participate in school gardening score significantly higher on standardized science achievement tests (Klemmer, et.al. 2005). Further research along these lines can be found at Cornell University’s Garden Based Learning website and at the California School Garden Network.

Start with a small garden in the backyard or even a garden planter in the house to nurture you child’s interest in getting in the dirt and to bring your family the many benefits growing a garden can provide. If there isn’t a children’s garden club in your town, start one. We can help change the environment that we live in by educating the future. We owe it to our children to show them how to keep a healthy planet so they can be healthy physically, emotionally and spiritually.

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Mary Galvano-Bajohr is a singer/songwriter, LPGA golf instructor, speaker and author. On the golf course she is a dedicated professional, but go to a Yankee game, a Pro-life event or other venue and you just might see her step up to the microphone and sing the National Anthem or the Ave Maria.

Visit Mary’s website at www.marygalvano.com.

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