Growing Through Play
Earth, water, sunshine and dirty hands: these are elements which create endless learning and play opportunities for children. Encouraging meaningful experiences and teachable moments becomes easy once taking a step outdoors.
Outside, the senses awaken and the mind is alert, children are open to making new connections.
By utilizing a plot of earth or simply filling containers with soil, you have the makings of a garden. The garden is more than just a place to grow plants, it grows valuable consciousness and concepts for young minds.
The process of shoveling, scooping, filling and dumping soil to get ready for planting, is not only great fun for children, but provides purposeful play as well. They may not know it, but by counting scoops or noticing empty, half full, and full, children are building their language, and early math concepts. It is empowering for children to have jobs and they benefit socially by turn taking in this activity. Talking about the warmth and light of the sun, and the moisture watering creates, can lead into how seeds are stimulated to sprout. You may point out the similarities plants have with us in terms of growth and nourishment. Sprouting a seed in a wet paper towel left in the sunshine can visually demonstrate the simple genius of nature. Once planted, charting the growth of the sprout, extends the math concept further, yet in a fun and very simple way.
Making the connection of growing, cultivating and tending a garden to the food we eat is a valuable awareness for children. By routinely checking the soil for moisture, pulling deadheads, watering and caring for in general, children are exposed to the practices of caring for and valuing life. Gardening generates respect at a basic level.
Most children, when asked where food comes from will reply “the store”. They are in many cases oblivious as to how it got there. The nature of our fast paced fast food world pushes away that which is natural, thus increasingly distancing children from experiences which promote health, care and respect for environment, life, and themselves. How will the world look in the absence of these ideals as these children grow ? Our window is still open, we can still affect children in a powerful way by exposing them to our natural environment and supporting their relationship with it.
Gardening requires engagement. You cannot simply stand next to a garden for it to thrive. Gardens can be enjoyed visually, but will not be much to look at if its needs are abandoned. If a person does not relate to or engage with the plants to meet their needs, the garden, much like humans, will show struggle with weeds, and rot, and the produce will pass its prime with no one picking it.
As the garden grows and produces food, children who tend it will have visual confirmation that their work is well worth it. Preparing snacks and meals from their food gives children a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. This direct handling and connection with the food being served and prepared by children creates the more likely event that they will eat it. With the state of our children’s diet related health issues, and the nutritional benefit of eating fresh fruits and vegetables is reason enough to begin you garden today. Including a garden in your home yard or centre really is a complete package, meeting the needs of socialization, emotional, intellectual, cognitive, and physical development, and it’s a fun way to spend time with children this summer. So slap on the sunscreen and hat, step outside, get your hands dirty and enjoy what ever comes up!
~ Rhonda Teramura
~ Rhonda Teramura