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PostHeaderIcon Benefits of Gardening Are Many for Kids

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The California Master Gardener’s Annual Conference was held in Santa Rosa this year.  One of our fellow Master Gardeners gave an extremely informational and interesting presentation documenting the benefits children and adults receive by just being in a garden setting.  Did you know that students who participated in school gardens scored higher on math and science achievement tests than students who did not garden?  Other benefits of gardening include improved concentration, enhanced cognitive functioning, reduced stress and anxiety, increased feelings of calm and relaxation, improved mood,  personal satisfaction and sense of pride.

Interest in backyard, community, and school gardens have heightened in the past five years as people have become more aware of sustainability and the importance of eating organic pesticide- free fruits and vegetables.  The Smithsonian has recreated a Victory Garden based on a 1940 pamphlet on vegetable gardening and the White House has created the “Let’s Move” theme incorporating education for eating healthy.   

It’s time for all us to consider the importance of teaching our children about our food chain and how they can participate in a home, school or community garden.  It is important for young children to know that food does not originate in the grocery store.  It’s amazing to note that after World War II, victory gardens accounted for 40 percent of total US produce while larger farms provided produce to the troops. 

Gardening is also fun!  The first thing my grandson, Tyler, (above) does when he comes to my house is run out to the strawberry patch.  He derives a great deal of pleasure from picking and eating the berries right from the vine.  He was a little upset, however when he ran out in December and to his surprise, there were no berries.  This turned into a learning experience and I was able to teach him about growing seasons, frost, etc.  He is also intrigued with my project of growing potatoes in a garbage can.  He is looking forward to the harvest when we will dump the entire can onto a tarp and harvest organic Russet potatoes that can be stored an eaten during the winter months.

Tyler, who will be five in September, enjoys investigating everything in the yard.  In addition to the vegetable garden, he likes to water the herb garden (it’s more his size).   We were watering the herb garden last week when he squealed with delight as he discovered a blue damselfly near the fountain.  

By the time I set my camera up, the damselfly had hidden himself underneath the oregano, his little head was peeking out, looking like some type of alien.  His blue color was beautiful and vibrant.  This was an opportunity for me to talk to Tyler about beneficial insects and how they help our echo system.

Tyler also loves to help me in the flower cutting garden. He always asks me to tell him the name of each and every flower. He enjoys searching for little critters in this area too.  In addition to our blue damselfly, we discovered a beautiful dragonfly perched on a stake supporting dinner plate dahlias.  

The dragonfly stayed perched on the stake for quite some time. Tyler was glued to the cutting garden watching the dragonfly until I was able to coax him over to the birdhouse box where a family of wrens had made a nest and the baby birds were preparing to fledge.  Mom and Dad were busy feeding their babies, so there was much activity and yet another opportunity to talk to Tyler about birds and how they nest, find food, bathe and fit into our echo system.

If you would enjoy more information on gardening with children, a free booklet is available to help you get started.  Visit this website and click on “Gardens for Learning”.  www.csgn.org

The National Gardening Association collects data to track the benefits of school gardens and this website may be of interest as well www.kidsgardening.org. There is also a junior Master Gardener Program website at www.jmkids.us
As always, UC Davis website has an abundance of information on Home Gardening.  www.ipm.ucdavis.edu  Click on Home Gardening.--JM

Jody McPheeters is a retired executive who lives in San Ramon. She is a published author, freelance writer, and Certified Master Gardener. To learn more about her landscapes and garden designs, please visit her website at www.yourgardeningcoach.com.

Last Updated (Tuesday, 02 August 2011 20:48)

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