A child as young as three or four years of age can be taught to develop an interest in gardening, and can continue this hobby throughout her life. All she needs is a little help. You may not have a green thumb and may know next to nothing about gardening, but if you know where to start, a ‘task’ might turn into a hobby for you too!
Growing green children
Gardening is a non-competitive and relaxing activity that takes children out into the open. It teaches them to be socially and environmentally responsible, and can be of benefit both to the environment and your child (read our Children and the Environment article in Issue 8 to know more about the role that children can play in conservation). Gardening also helps children develop a better understanding of scientific concepts like photosynthesis, respiration, the nitrogen cycle, the water cycle, and the carbon cycle. And like any other productive activity, gardening can teach a child to take pride in her work and become more confident of her capabilities.
Mumbai-based Smita Kharbanda has dedicated the last 18 years of her life to spreading awareness about the environment by conducting gardening classes for young children. She is the founder of ‘EcoKids’, a project she startedin 2009 to provide a hands-on experience of gardening and other environmental topics to young children. Kharbanda has worked with kids ranging from three to 12 year-olds, and she believes that “gardening is very good exercise for children who are hyperactive or are going through depression. Children who garden are never aggressive since they develop sensitivity to nature. They never pluck a flower because they know that it will then die. They don’t catch butterflies, which, they know, help in pollination. They associate worms with vermin-culture, and when they grow older, they learn about biodegradable and non-biodegradable materials. They know what is good for the planet. I think that gardening should be made mandatory in schools, with every school scheduling a gardening period in their weekly timetable.”
How does your garden grow?
Children can start gardening from the age of three or four years. However, the tasks they do can increase in complexity as they grow older.
It is a given that gardening will hold a young child’s attention, since most love to play with mud (although parents may not be as enthusiastic about this!). The most exciting aspect for younger kids is ‘pouring water’ for the plants (use colourful and manageable water cans or mugs). Children between the ages of three and five can easily manage such activities as watering and digging. You can also help your child grow grass or small plants like mustard or coriander in coconut shells (draw a face on the coconut shell to make it even more interesting). As they grow slightly older, children will enjoy and learn from more complicated activities, such as planting seeds, pruning plants, weeding, plucking ripened fruits/ vegetables, making compost, and even taking care of bonsai. By the time they are about 12 years of age, they can be completely responsible for the garden and be well able to prune plants, add fertilizer, and trim plants not just for beauty, but also to encourage maximum growth.