Teaching Kids About Gardening – It’s More Than Just Growing Plants

By Nikki Tilley | April 16, 2020
Image by Nikki Tilley
by Nikki Tilley
April 16, 2020

With most schools closed and homeschooling or continuing your children’s education online the new norm, parents (and even teachers) are looking for engaging ways to keep kids motivated while learning. The garden is just the place for that.

Nearly any school subject can be covered outdoors in the garden, from math to science to reading, health and more. I even wrote a book about gardening with kids long ago – Growing Up Green: Teaching Kids To Garden Naturally While Having Fun. I used to practice these “life lessons” with my own kids when they were little. Although I didn’t homeschool, I did try to instill a love for gardening, or at least the outdoors, so they could learn about the world around them in their own backyard. And while, unfortunately, over time they lost interest in growing a garden themselves, they still managed to carry over a number of those life lessons into adulthood – and now they have kids of their own to teach.

Teaching Kids About Gardening Gives Back So Much More

While I was busy teaching my kids about growing plants, the garden actually taught them more than I could imagine without any extra work from me. In the garden classroom, they learned where food came from by growing, tending, picking and eating vegetables in our garden.

They learned the importance of pollination watching bees travel from flower to flower and how those veggies wouldn’t be possible without them. Of course, they also learned that some bees, like yellow jackets, aren’t always your friend and to be mindful when they’re around – as witnessed when gathering rocks from our creek to use in the garden. I wasn’t as mindful as I should’ve been and stumbled right into a nest. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that. Lol

They learned that everything has a place and purpose in life, and that wildlife and even domestic animals connect to the plant world in some way. My kids grew up outdoors with a love for “helping” in the garden or wherever they could. My daughter even helped in the barn getting up manure, or “horse poopy” as she would say. That manure helped produce some of the best garden vegetables ever! They learned that earthworms aren’t just for use as fish bait but can help aerate and fertilize the soil. They learned about the food chain. How pests like aphids feed on plants but ladybugs feed on them. How toads gobble up insects and garden snakes eat the toads. They even learned how lightning bugs not only light up at night, providing loads of fun summertime play, but help in the garden too.

The changing of the seasons offered a world full of possibilities and things to learn. Each spring meant new seeds for planting but also a time for counting. And while the sun might make it hot sometimes, it helps the plants grow. They learned how water wasn’t just for swimming or drinking or washing, but that plants need it too, and rain is a good thing. Fall was a time for making leaf piles but also a time for the garden to go to sleep for winter.

They learned that the world isn’t just black and white but filled with color. Flowers don’t just come in one shape or color but many, just like the world in which we live…there’s lots of diversity, yet we’re all part of the same garden. They learned that not everything has to be new – it’s possible to use whatever you have on hand and to recycle items whenever you can. Old toys made cool containers and accomplished room cleaning at the same time, plus they were sharing these not-so-easy-to-let-go-of toys with plants, or even garden critters. Creativity was always welcome, and encouraged. Many an art project was born in the garden.

I look forward to carrying on this same learning style with my grandchildren. My grandson already loves the outdoors, the flowers, and the bugs. Growing a garden is something we could all benefit from, and best of all, you’re never too young or old to learn something from the garden classroom.

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