Starting a backyard garden is a great way to teach toddlers and preschoolers about nature.
Through gardening, they also learn valuable life skills like responsibility, cooperation, patience and creativity.
Too much screen time is becoming a big problem for many families, so gardening is an excellent way to get kids outdoors into the fresh air and away from their screens.
Some of the garden tasks that toddlers and preschoolers can help with are planting seeds, watering plants, adding kitchen scraps to the compost heap, mulching around plants and harvesting vegetables and herbs.
Benefits of gardening for toddlers and preschoolers
Gardening provides an opportunity for kids to use all five of their senses.
Whether it’s feeling the texture of the soil, smelling a flower, tasting a freshly picked carrot or listening to the bees buzzing around, engaging the senses helps kids to connect with nature.
Gardening helps with the development of hand-eye coordination and increases physical strength from digging, pulling out weeds and lifting the watering can.
Gardening also requires patience. You need to wait for the seeds to germinate, and then wait until the plants grow big enough to harvest.
This can be a great opportunity to teach kids about delayed gratification.
Gardening encourages healthy eating habits and kids are more likely to try the fruits and vegetables that they helped to grow.
Things for kids to discover in the garden
Children can learn about the different types of flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables that grow in the garden and watch them grow from tiny seeds into mature plants.
They can learn about the different types of plants and the things that plants need to help them grow such as sunlight, water and healthy soil.
They also get to learn about the different seasons, weather and the life cycle of plants.
Another fun aspect of gardening is that it introduces children to the world of bugs and insects.
They can learn about beneficial insects like bees, butterflies and dragonflies that are good for the garden and the annoying pests like aphids and slugs that eat our plants.
Safety precautions for toddlers and preschoolers in the garden
- Make sure that young children are supervised at all times while gardening
- Provide appropriate tools for the child’s age
- Use organic gardening methods or if you use chemical sprays and fertilisers be sure to keep them out of reach
- Ensure that children wear a hat and sunscreen while outdoors in the garden
Fun garden activities to try
Make a mud pie – This is a classic activity that toddlers love! All you need is some dirt, water, and imagination.
Nature scavenger hunt – Make a list of items for your child to find in the garden, such as a brown leaf, smooth rock or pink flower.
Create a Butterfly Garden – Plant flowers that attract butterflies, like coneflowers, daisies, and cosmos. Then watch as butterflies of all types come to visit!
By getting their hands dirty and watching plants grow, kids can develop a love and appreciation for nature.
Kelly Martin is a gardening enthusiast and founder of the gardening website https://urbangardengal.com where she shares tips for gardening in an urban environment.