Gardening for babies, toddlers and preschoolers
It’s National Children’s Gardening Week from the 28th of May – to the 5th of June 2022. As part of this, we are providing some helpful resources and tips to help you get involved. National Children’s Gardening Week celebrates the fun that gardens hold for youngsters. Whether it’s by potting plants or identifying critters – there are plenty of wonderful ways early years children can spend time in the garden and learn new skills.
Gardening for babies, toddlers and preschoolers
For babies, ‘gardening’ might seem completely out of the question. But even just providing young babies with different views of their surroundings, such as under a tree or looking at bushes and flowers in a garden or park can help with their development. Babies will benefit more from action around them in the garden than from a baby gym for example, and by introducing talking and singing to babies they will become more able to communicate, both expressing and responding through body movements, gestures, facial expressions and vocalisations.
For toddlers and preschool children, ‘gardening’ can be conducted with lots of different outdoor play activities. Play is such an important part of a child’s learning because it allows the child to make discoveries about all kinds of concepts which they can then apply to other scenarios. The freedom from rules outdoors can often lead to more relaxed interactions between adults and children and the learning opportunities can be planned with the children’s individual needs, interests and developing learning characteristics in mind. The play can be open-ended, with some experiences – e.g. planting seeds and harvesting crops being adult-led and small group based.
Children’s attention spans can be matched by making planned experiences short and as children get older, they can concentrate for longer so you can move on to more complicated gardening tasks.
3 reasons why early years children should get involved with gardening
- Engages the senses
By allowing babies and toddlers to explore the natural world around them they will become more familiar and curious about things like the wind, the sun, the movement of the leaves in the trees and different sounds such as birdsong and insect sounds, puddles, trees and surfaces such as grass, concrete or pebbles.
Gardening will engage all of the senses from feeling compost to smelling herbs and observing the stunning colour of flowers in bloom. As children get to grips with gardening they will be able to enjoy a hands-on experience feeling the soil, seeds, and leaves of a plant – and the act of digging and planting seeds in the ground will improve motor skills and help them build physical strength.
- Helps with literacy and maths
Gardening play can help children to become more confident around their peers and the adults around them. Use gardening as an opportunity to explain how plants grow and allow the children to observe. Introduce children to new words like petal, root, or seed and ask open-ended questions to help improve their vocabulary. The anticipation of waiting for a seed to sprout or a flower to bloom can encourage conversation between children as well as excitement.
The outdoors offers the chance to experiment with the larger scales of space, shape and measure. For example, when identifying critters in the garden or picking flowers a child might display counting behaviour which is key to their mathematics development.
- Encourages healthy eating and sustainable living
Gardening can help children to become familiar with a wide variety of foods through growing, handling fruit and vegetables, smelling, tasting, role play and investigating as well as songs, rhymes and stories. It can be used to encourage the collaboration of children and their peers.
A popular activity in the summer months for children is to engage them in growing fruits and vegetables themselves. Even the fussiest of children will be more likely to try their greens if they have grown them for themselves. Growing fruit and vegetables also teaches a valuable lesson about the work it takes to produce food and the importance of reducing food waste. As a secondary activity alongside growing and eating fresh produce, you could teach children how to make compost using the scraps. As we look toward a more sustainable future, gardening can be a valuable learning tool for those in the early years.
Teaching a child about gardening from a young age can be valuable to early year’s development and we want to encourage you to try this with your children this year. Have you seen our Gardening Activity Guide yet?
This FREE resource features 10 adult-led gardening activity ideas that will encourage you to get outside and initiate those wonderful learning opportunities.
You can also visit the National Children’s Gardening Week website or their Facebook page to find useful information, resources, and fun activities you can do to encourage outdoor learning.