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The Benefits of Gardening for Children + 8 Activities for Preschoolers

Holistic, wholesome and heartwarming – gardening ticks all those boxes. 

Spending time in the garden with your preschool child will enable you to reap all kinds of benefits. 

There are many opportunities in the garden for a child’s development and for their overall view of life and appreciation of the world around them.

Before I share some gardening for preschoolers activity ideas, here is a quick look at the eight benefits of gardening.

The 8 Benefits of Gardening for Children

Gardening is a wonderful activity for developing a child holistically. How do you approach holistic education through gardening?

Spending time in the garden offers opportunities to develop all kinds of skills.  The benefits of gardening in early childhood are physical, emotional, spatial, mathematical, sensory awareness, character development, creative ideas, and just a love and appreciation of nature. 

The garden is nature’s schoolyard.  Here are some ideas of how you can use this environment to derive these benefits:

Little toddler girl working with shovel while gardening

1. Physical Development

Digging, raking, pushing the wheelbarrow, and planting new plants. All of these actions, and many more, are the physical advantages of working in the garden. 

Find a set of gardening tools that are the right size for children and start off with the mini wheelbarrow and some seedlings to plant. Give children their own portion of the garden to work in so your prize pansies are not dug up in a hurry.

Make a sign that labels each child’s portion of the garden and see how proud they will become of their little spot.

2. Emotional Growth

Fostering a sense of joy as plants flower and grow is certainly a great emotional by-product of gardening. Exploring nature through gardening brings the delightful experience of watching butterflies and ladybirds share the garden too.

Mixed emotions are felt when plants do not grow so well. Then there is the satisfaction of reaping a crop of baby carrots. Washing them and eating them right there in the garden where they grew.

3. Spatial Skills

These come naturally in a garden as seedlings are planted with space to grow. Seeds are planted in a row and thinned out to allow them to grow fully and fill their space. Seeds are planted in pots and arranged in the garden. 

The garden is a great space to appreciate how things grow and the space they need, from big trees to tiny flowers.

4. Mathematical Skills

There are so many opportunities in the garden to develop practical early maths skills. Counting, measuring, comparing, and understanding position in space are just a few. 

There is no end to the opportunities for practising these skills, counting and appreciating the plants, flowers and seeds as they grow. 

Let young children handle big seeds initially or put tiny seeds into a salt shaker with some sand to sprinkle in the garden.

Mother teaching her preschool daughter about gardening

5. Sensory Awareness

Gardening, and exploring nature, awakens so many sensory elements of the growing child. The texture of the soil to touch, the scent of the flowers, the sound of the insects and birds, the taste of the vegetables and fruit and the amazing colours nature inspires us with. 

Take your children on a nature walk and talk about what they see, smell, touch, taste and hear in the garden. It is one of the places where all five senses can be experienced.

6. Character Development

Little characters will just bloom and grow through the life lessons gardening can teach your kids.

Patience is a big characteristic that young children struggle to develop. Daily visits to the garden to watch and water seeds as they grow requires patience. 

Then the rewards of patience come to fruition as the seeds grow. Patience is rewarded when the harvest of a vegetable or flowers arrives to be enjoyed and shared with the family. 

Responsibility is another character trait that gardening encourages. Children are responsible for their patch of the garden. Watering and weeding are two tasks that encourage responsibility. 

Gardening develops children’s self-confidence as they see they can plant the seeds and watch them grow and harvest a crop at the end.

7. Creative Ideas

The garden is one of the most creative spaces we have to explore with our children. If you don’t have a garden, it is possible to have little indoor gardens in pots or to have a kitchen area to grow herbs. 

Then parks and outdoor spaces can add the extra outdoor feel of communicating with nature. Whatever living space you may have, it is still possible to be creative with plants and enjoy some gardening experiences. 

Crafts with a garden theme help bring gardening and creativity together. What about making a grass-head, a bird feeder or a funny garden scarecrow? These and other creative ideas are added in this article. 

8. Holistic Development

There are so many holistic ideas to support gardening and child development. Gardening is also wholesome. Here are some ways it provides for wholesome development:

  • Healthy, wholesome living is the number one factor. Getting outdoors and enjoying fresh air and sunshine has to be how nature intended children to grow up. Appreciating their environment and moving freely in a garden space is good for children.
  • Wholesome eating is encouraged by growing your own vegetables. A real appreciation of growing and eating your own crop is wholesome for the body and the mind. It is very satisfying to be able to plant, grow and reap the vegetables to make something that appears on the dinner table.
  • A healthy respect for nature and how things grow, and why we need to look after our environment is a positive part of gardening. Lessons in conservation and recycling and nurturing the planet may seem like lofty topics, but even a small seed of knowledge and caring for the earth is never wasted.
  • Gardening is healthy and wholesome. Perhaps you may think you are nurturing your garden, but in reality, your garden is nurturing you and your family!

Audrey Hepburn said:

“To plant a garden is to believe in the future.”

And with that belief in mind, take some of these garden activities to heart. Let a love of gardening become a part of your children’s growth in the natural world.

8 Simple Gardening Activities for Preschoolers

Here are some great gardening for preschoolers activity ideas to get you started.

1. Garden Fantasy Creation

Set aside a part of your garden for your children to create a garden theme. It could be a fairy garden or a dinosaur garden. 

Any theme will do with figurines and plants to match the theme. Flowers for fairies and cacti and succulents for the dino world. Or you could use shapes to create a garden. Use stones for the outline and sow seeds to grow in the shapes. 

Theme gardens encourage fantasy play and a personal interest in part of the garden.

Mother and daughter water plant they grew in their garden

2. Make a Scarecrow

This is a fun-filled activity. Creating a scarecrow to sit in the vegetable garden can be a team effort and a chance to repurpose some old clothes and a garden hat. 

Read some stories about scarecrows. Listen to The Scarecrow’s Hat by Ken Brown and The Shy Scarecrow by Mary Packard.

These and many other lovely stories are written about scarecrows.

3. Make Growing Greeting Cards

This is a lovely way to send a garden message or a Spring greeting. 

Use soft pastel paper that will eventually be absorbed into the soil. Create your message or symbol with fine seeds like petunia or alyssum. Glue the seeds onto the paper in the shape and plant the card. Then watch the message grow.

4. Make a Bird Feeder

This simple bird feeder just needs a toilet roll and some birdseed as well as some twine or string. The toilet roll can be rolled in peanut butter and then rolled in birdseed. The string or twine loops through the toilet roll and then the bird feeder is ready to hang in a tree for the lucky birds. 

An alternative sticky agent would be water-based glue to make the seeds adhere to the cardboard toilet roll.

Here are more fun birds activities for preschoolers.

5. Egg Box Caterpillars

Here is a garden activity for preschoolers that does not require a garden, just some light, water and an old egg box. 

  • Use the bottom part with little portions that hold the eggs. 
  • Cut off the top of the box and save some of the cardboard for your caterpillar head. 
  • Put some soil into each egg portion. 
  • Cut out and draw a goofy caterpillar face. 
  • You can add pipe cleaners for feelers and googly eyes if you have them available. 
  • Sprinkle some grass seed or mustard seed or any seed of a small plant into each section of the egg box. 
  • Water gently and watch the caterpillar grow some hairy tufts.

6. Grow and Make Your Own Soup or Salad

Let kids experience the whole grow-and-use cycle of planting, watering, tending and reaping some vegetables.

At the end of the cycle harvest the crop and make something to eat. Share the delicious food with the family or class. Watch the smiles on kids’ faces as they describe how they planted and grew everything themselves. 

Child gardening in the backyard garden

7. Grow a Bean Seed

Learning about how things grow and seeing the seed sprout and send down its roots is a great way to understand what happens under the ground. 

  • If you soak the bean seeds overnight they grow a little faster. 
  • Find an empty glass jar and place the bean so it is visible at the side of the jar. 
  • Use cotton wool or blotting paper to hold the bean in place. 
  • Water the bean and keep the seed moist. 
  • Watch the root and the shoot grow as the bean gets water and sunlight, encouraging it to grow. 

8. Grow a Grass Head

This creative activity does not need a garden, but will still give a growing experience.

You’ll need:

  • An old stocking
  • Some grass seed
  • Soil and compost or potting soils, or even sawdust to fill the grass head
  • Googly eyes
  • An elastic band and cotton
  • An old mug or cup

What to do:

Step one: Cut the top off a pair of pantyhose and just keep the toe piece and a bit of the leg for the head and neck of the grass head. 

Step two: Put the grass seed into the top of the stocking followed by the soil or sawdust and press in to form the head.

Step three:  Wrap the elastic band around the neck part of the grass head and leave the extra part of the stocking to fill the cup when you place the grass head onto the cup. The cup will hold the water and the grass head when it is completed.

Step four: Pinch some of the stocking and soil to form a nose and wrap some cotton around it to keep it in place. You can draw on a mouth or cut one out of red cardboard.

Step five: Glue on the googly eyes and there you have a grass head. Sit Mr Grass head in the mug or cup and water his head and watch the ‘hair’ begin to grow.

When the ‘hair’ gets too long you can give the grass head a haircut!

There are many rewarding activities to try out with kids. Learning about the garden leads to an interest in insects, the seasons of the year, cooking and flower arranging. 

The garden is in fact a bountiful place full of great opportunities to inspire and educate.

Get your gardening hat out and your wellies and gloves and who knows you may get hooked on gardening too if you are not already an avid gardener!

Need more inspiration? Here are 36 simple gardening activities for preschoolers.

Gardening for preschoolers activities - pinnable image

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