Your garden can be so much more than just a green space — it can be a learning space too! Get the kids outside and away from technology for a while and they’ll not only reap the health benefits, but also learn a thing or two about the natural world. Let’s take a look at how the garden can be utilised to engage young minds.

Early-year skills

Gardens are a fantastic environment for developing early-years skills. Messy play is a great way to improve sensory and cognitive development, whilst having fun. There is an abundance of research behind the advantages of messy play and how this unstructured form of activity can really help your child develop.

This can be done in the garden with sand, water or even mud! It’s all about breaking down the usual rules that your child might face, such as being restricted to a play mat or not being too disruptive with toys. Encourage your child to draw shapes with different (child-friendly) tools and their fingers in various materials — this can help children to build up their finger and arm muscles, which is useful for when they come to hold a pen.

Let your child explore all these new textures from the garden. They become used to handling solid objects, such as toys, and these are easy for children to learn because they don’t change shape. For example, letting your child come into contact with mud, a softer material, lets children broaden their knowledge and allows them to compare and understand new textures.

Further learning

Weather permitting, why not do homework outside? Your child might have spent all day behind a desk at school doing their work and it’s nice to have a break from this when they come home. Make it easy for your child to work outdoors by purchasing a gazebo or having a table and chairs outdoors where homework can be done.

85% of teachers reported that they saw a positive impact on their pupils’ behavior when they were taught outside. In addition to this, 92% of pupils said that they preferred their lessons to be outdoors. Also, in a study between pupils who learnt indoors and those who learnt outdoors, those who were outside were found to have a better understanding of their responsibility to care for the environment.

Greens and food

Research shows that kids who grow their own produce are far more likely to eat it, even if it’s fresh fruit and ‘dreaded’ vegetables! This can be a great way to improve their diet and get them outdoors. Easy fruit and vegetables to grow include: strawberries, cabbage, radishes and potatoes. You can decide on the size of your patch and watch as your child runs outside to see what has grown that week.

Little helpers

Children love to feel responsible and important, so helping out in the garden is a great way to do this. Give them some tasks to do daily, or even weekly, and it’s likely that they’ll start to look forward to spending time in the garden. One simple task to get children outdoors could be to grow a sunflower.

Each day your child can head outdoors to see how their plant is growing and practice some math skills through measuring. This can be exciting for a child, as often the sunflower will grow taller than them! You can do bigger tasks like tidying up heavy compost bags while they go about tidying the garden up. Let them trim the edges of your garden, water the plants or do some de-weeding — it’s a nice way to spend time together, too.

Sources http://www.peecworks.org/peec/peec_reports/01795CA8-001D0211.32/CYE_FactSheet3_Benefits%20of%20Gardening%20for%20Children_August%2020.pdf

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