Finding activities for young children is difficult. Ideally, you’re looking for options that are inexpensive, safe, accessible, and rich in creative potential — and those qualities don’t often appear together. Check out our blog on how to create a sensory garden for kids. But what about gardening? Could something as simple as watering plants and trimming weeds be the answer to your parenting woes? Well, to put it simply, yes. Getting your children into gardening could be exactly what you’ve been looking for.
It doesn’t need an enormous garden or greenhouse
Many hobbies need specific environments that are inaccessible to many people, but gardening isn’t one of them. Of course, large-scale cultivation is ideally suited to those with larger gardens but starting out doesn’t take much: just a sunny windowsill or balcony and a few pots with good quality compost. But even if this is not an option for you, there’s so much to be said for encouraging your children to simply observe, appreciate and look after the natural world.
It doesn’t need costly equipment
Tennis, for example, is a fine hobby, but think of all the things you need to buy for it! Racquets, balls, court rental, coaching fees… not to mention expensive clothing! Gardening, on the other hand, needs very little expenditure. You’ll just need some gloves, a few pots, seeds and compost – all readily affordable with pocket money. Of course, there’s lots out there to help them as they become more proficient, but to start out they really won’t need anything more.
You can throw in some extras, of course, and there are plenty of excellent birthday or Christmas gifts for avid young gardeners. What’s nice about these things is that you can get them from sellers that contribute significantly to preservation efforts: the RSPB has a choice of binoculars perfect for aspiring birdwatchers, for instance, so you can make a purchase knowing that the money will be well spent.
It teaches patience and discipline
Children these days have their attention pulled in countless directions: endless social media feeds bombard them with updates and make it hard for them to concentrate – it was so much easier when we were young!
Gardening is as far removed from the electronic hubbub as you can get. It’s all about taking your time, making smart decisions, and thinking ahead. After all, you can’t watch a plant grow to fruition in half an hour! When planting seeds they’ll need to care for them every day, even though the fruits of their labours will come later. This process teaches excellent lessons about patience, perseverance, and the joys of delayed gratification.
It’s great for building community spirit
Feelings of alienation and disconnection from the natural world and local communities are big problems among our young people. Social media bubbles and computer games (not to mention lockdowns) mean that fewer children than before are getting out and about, with their shoes off and the grass between their toes.
If you’re lucky enough to have a big garden project in your area, your children can start helping out and learning to work collaboratively. They can share the experience of nurturing plant life with others their age and beyond.
It’s deeply rewarding
Gardening is so rewarding! All the work has a clear payoff: an hour’s weeding reveals a beautiful pathway; steady watering yields spectacular plants. Working on the same pursuit over a long time will pay huge rewards, and powerfully show your children garden the value of committing to a single project. Although it won’t happen overnight, subtle changes will happen every day and provide endless small pleasures.
So, why not encourage them to try gardening?
If you’re a keen gardener, you can get them started by inviting them to help you. They might just develop the desire to do more, and before you know it they’ll be off on their own. And when that happens, the joy will be yours too as you watch them learn grow (just like their seedlings!).
The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's