Many adults have fond memories of helping out in the garden as children. I can remember watching my grandfather plant gladiola bulbs while I sprinkled radish seeds by his side. In today’s busy world, a garden can seem like one more project, but a small plot offers rich learning opportunities.
Your preschooler will benefit in big ways from helping in a garden — with just a little extra effort on your part. From an emotional standpoint, preschoolers learn to be responsible and patient while caring for a tiny seed as it grows into a plant. They discover self-satisfaction in raising something beautiful. The simple act of digging and planting also helps physical development, strengthening both gross and fine motor skills.
Beyond what your child will naturally learn from being outdoors, there are ways to make the gardening experience more educational for him. Help him to make a chart of his plants and teach him to predict how the flowers will change each week. Then, work on basic math concepts by measuring the plants together every Saturday. Talk to him about the principle of cause and effect as he waters the seeds and they later sprout. As the summer wears on, the cycle of life unfolds magically in front of him, from sowing seeds to growing plants to harvesting flowers and veggies.
Most importantly, gardening is a great way to bond together in the great outdoors. As I can attest, the memories of planting flowers next to Mom are sure to be sweet.
- Give him a job. Put him in charge of certain tasks, like watering the plants. Use easy-to-grow veggies (squash, lettuce) and flowers (marigolds, petunias).
- Try a theme. Plant a “pizza garden” of tomatoes, peppers, and basil or a “rainbow garden” with flowers of each color in the spectrum.
Susan A. Miller, Ed.D., a veteran teacher, director, and author, is professor emerita of early childhood education at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.
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