How many lessons can a kid learn from gardening? Oh, let us count the ways!

Check out these 10 brilliant brain benefits that come from working in a garden!

MMA student with zucchini
  1. Young children can practice locomotor skills, body management skills, and object control skills while they move from one place to the other carrying tools, soil and water. They will be moving their bodies and developing muscles to balance and manage objects, too. Fine motor skills such as whole-hand grasping and the pincer grasp (necessary skills for writing) are employed in gardening when children use a trowel or rake and pick up tiny seeds to plant. Further, being outdoors in the fresh air and moving around a lot is a good way to get exercise.
  2. Another aspect of physical development is the sensory stimulation that you can experience in a garden. Water is a critical part of gardening and, of course, playing with the hose or the watering can be a highlight. Feeling the texture of the soil or the plant leaves is also interesting, as is the smell of the fresh garden and its plants.  The physical and emotional benefits of grounding are both scientifically and medically documented.
  3. Of course, most gardens are a visual explosion of colors, tones and shades. If you plant edible plants, this is one of the few areas where you can actually safely employ your child’s sense of taste. Children are often more willing to try a new food if they have been involved in the process of growing it. At MMA, our students get to eat most everything they plant!
  4. Literacy skills can be an integral part of gardening, too. Learning the names of different plants and reading what their growth requirements are on the seed or plant packages is a literacy activity. Another reading/writing activity could be making a map of your garden or your yard and labeling the plants in it. A map of the area that you plant can be really helpful when those seeds start to sprout and you are not sure which one is a weed and which is the vegetable or flower you planted!
  5. Cognitive development is all about intellectual skills such as remembering and analyzing information and predicting outcomes. We do plenty of that in our MMA garden. By asking open-ended questions about what we have already done and what they think we should do next, our students are thinking through the processes of preparing the soil, planting, watering and weeding. Ask your kiddos to give you a tour of our garden, and ask them to tell you about the differences between the various plants we are growing and describe the different parts of the plants to you. They are learning the entire plant—roots, stem, leaves, flowers and seeds—and what happens at different stages of growth.
  6. Math skills such as geometry, numeric conversions, and linear order all come into play heavily while gardening. The simple ability to count as children decide how many rows to plant, or how many seeds to sow in each area, are life-long lessons they will carry into adulthood. Measuring the area for a plot or collecting data regarding the growth of vegetables, will become day to day needs as they mature. They will learn about area as they graph out the plot, planning how many plants they can grow, how far apart they need to be and measure distance for each variety. Basic geometry will prove useful as children contemplate shapes and the design of the garden. (Click here for more great math gardening tips.)
  7. TEAMWORK!!!  Enough Said.
  8. Confidence that comes through the personal responsibility of working toward a desired outcome and taking care of another living being is a trait that will benefit a child their entire life.
  9. Awareness of sustainable living and the holistic powers of eating as close to the source as possible. You would be shocked to know how many children today think that food comes from the grocery store, and not the farm! Gardening allows us to bring our fifth Core Value to life in technicolor: working hard to protect the environment and sustain Hashem’s resources for future generations.
  10. Finally, definitely try this at home!! Working together on your garden with your children is togetherness time. You build bonds with children and create memories from your experiences in the garden. While your children are learning a lifelong love of growing things, you are learning more about your children—how they think, what they like and dislike and how capable they really are. Your plants can create a beautiful environment, whether they are in a garden, a raised bed or a pot, and you and your children will enjoy every stage of the process.
MMA Garden zucchini

Credit: thanks to the University of Michigan for documenting much of this great data!