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connection that is necessary for our mental and physical health. Living things
make people feel good.
Young children are sensory learners, and gardening calls to all their senses.
The visual impact of ﬂowers, vegetables, and living creatures pulls them into
the garden, where they immediately reach out to touch the growing plants.
They notice the fragrance of ﬂowers and herbs, hear the grasses rustle in the
wind and the hum of the bumblebee as she settles on a coneﬂower. They pick
mint, perhaps tasting the herb for the ﬁrst time in its natural state. Later they
harvest vegetables and herbs to use in cooking activities. Maybe they try a new
food for the ﬁrst time because they grew it themselves.
Gardening is movement, and children need to move. They can’t help it.
Ask a group of three-year-olds to sit still and then observe how much harder
this is for them than running and climbing. We have always known that move-
ment helps bodies grow, and now researchers have conﬁrmed that movement
is also necessary for brain development. A garden gives children a place and
a purpose to practice both ﬁne- and gross-motor skills. Children dig holes to
plant seeds or seedlings. They pick up tiny seeds and place them in a hole or
broadcast them carefully over a wide space. They collect mulch in wheelbar-
rows and spread it on the garden, then hold the hose as they sprinkle water
over the growing plants. Weeding requires careful selection and removal of
unwanted plants. Picking ﬂowers takes skill and practice—pull too hard and
the roots come up, cut too high up and there is no stem to put in the vase.
Some ﬂowers can be broken off; others need to be cut with scissors. When the
children harvest vegetables, they must use just the right amount of pressure in
removing the desired part of the plant to avoid damaging the remaining part.
Social growth occurs when children work together in the garden. They
learn to listen to each other and share what they know. Because their experi-
ences differ, they learn from each other. They develop social skills as they
encounter situations that involve taking turns, compromising, and sharing.
Patience and the ability to tolerate delays evolve as children learn that their
turn does come when they work cooperatively with others. Children and
adults all have to work cooperatively in the garden. Gardening is a group proj-
ect, and negotiation is sometimes necessary when determining what to grow,
who will do what task, how to carry out a needed job, or what to do with the
harvest. Everyone has to work together to solve problems when they occur,
building a sense of teamwork.
Children develop conﬁdence as they work in the garden. They conquer
fears as they encounter new creatures in their explorations, examine them,
hold them in their hands, and return them to their homes. Even children who
don’t like to get dirty are drawn to a session of planting ﬂowers. They dig
with trowels, and though they may don gloves or grab the stem of the plant to
avoid touching the soil, they participate. The garden is responsive to children
Why Garden? • 5