Gardening is all about learning.

Anyone who has gardened knows that gardening is all about learning. You learn how dirt feels, how to dig a hole, how to water and feed plants, how to plant, when not to over-water. You also learn about things growing and delayed gratification (strawberries will grow on the plants, but they are not here now). These are all ideal lessons for toddlers to learn.

Gardening is active learning – it is an activity. There does not have to be much “lecturing” during gardening. You show the toddler the plant, give them their shovel, and ask them to dig a hole they think the plant will fit in. Then, when they say they are done, you try to put the plant in the hole. If it is not big enough, simply ask, “Does it have to be bigger or smaller?” Eventually your holes will get dug (you can only do this with smaller plants. A lemon tree sized hole is not the thing to have a toddler dig).

There is also a reward. Instead of merely being told that plants grow, toddlers will get to see it in action. They get the satisfaction of actually planting a plant, and the satisfaction of watching it grow. If they have helped pick out the plants, that gives them even more incentive.

Responsibility is learned by caring for the plants. Watering is a task that has to be done every day. In our house, we have a list of tasks on a white board. These are the tasks that have to be done that day. When a task is finished, it gets wiped off the board. Watering is now a task – a responsibility – on the list.

Toddlers love to play with dirt and this is simply an extension of that. A small garden (this one has 6 herb plants, 8 strawberry plants, and a lemon tree) can teach a toddler a lot about how things grow. In fact, one thing we did was measure the plants at the beginning. I had my son write down the measurements and now he wants to measure them every day to see if they are growing.

Gardening is a great tool for teaching by doing instead of teaching by showing or teaching by telling. For boys, who tend to be active learners, this is a great thing.

Additionally, gardening can be made into a week of lessons. If your children are older they can take graph paper and draw out the planned garden. They can work on a budget for the garden. The smaller children can learn about plant life cycles. There can be a whole lesson on the color green and finding green things in the garden. Green and garden both start with “g” so there is a whole lesson about the letter “g” as well. You can read a book on gardening. Sesame Street has a “Gardening with Friends” mini-book that we read everyday before we garden. There are other books centered around gardens that can be tied into the lessons as well (The Secret Garden, Garden Spells, Growing Things, etc.).

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