As summer approaches, many parents are left with mixed feelings. They love the long evenings. (Hello, Pinot Grigio!). And the sunny weather. And the better mood that everyone’s in. But they also have to face the fact that schools close soon for the holidays. When, quite suddenly, they’ll be looking down the barrel at a long, looong summer with their kids.
We love our little nippers. Of course, we do. But filling an entire summer with activities can be downright exhausting. Luckily, there’s one activity that can provide hours, days, even weeks of entertainment. And better yet, it’s completely free!
That activity is none other than weed-wrenching, grass-grabbing gardening. And it should top your list of “things to do with the kids” this summer. Want to know why?
Well, ok then. I’ll tell you.
Monks spend hours sweeping leaves outside their monasteries for good reason. Sure, they’re adhering to the whole concept of karma yoga, selflessly doing tasks with no attachment to the outcome. And so on. Well done, them.
But there’s also – quite cannily – doing themselves a great service while they’re at it. Because of this seemingly repetitive task, in which you’re completely focused on making something more beautiful, is actually a great practice in mindfulness. A kind of moving meditation.
Don’t worry – your kid isn’t going to become a monk overnight with a bit of gardening. (Although sometimes, a period of noble silence would be appreciated!) But the activity can help them to become more focused, more aware of the present moment. A skill that will certainly serve them well as they grow up.
Once your kids become more mindful of the present moment, they may also become more mindful of their environment. Specifically, of THE environment. They’ll learn to respect Mother Nature and her majestic ways. Discover all about composting and recycling. Find ways to keep things clean and green for their own children in the future.
Climate change isn’t going to go away. It’s only going to get worse, leading to all kinds of environmental and societal repercussions. So you should hop on any opportunity you have to educate your kids about climate change! Get them nerdy about nature and get them into gardening.
Kids can be bundles of seemingly endless energy. Which, as we mentioned before, can get a little tiring. Especially in those long summer evenings!
Gardening is a great way to get them running around outside. And eventually, all that concentration, all that energy and all that fresh air will wear them out. (Phew!)
A word of warning: if you let your nippers run around late into the summer’s evening, this can actually have a reverse effect. Because they’ll be too wound up to sleep! Instead, allow them to garden until their heart’s content before dinnertime. Then, as the evening starts to wind down, stick to quieter indoor activities (like colouring, baking or scrapbook making). This helps them to chill out again and sets the entire family up for a well-deserved sleep!
Perhaps the only exercise your kids enjoy is playing with the remote control. What a shame – especially when it’s so sunny outdoors! We know that kids love their video games. And their TV. And their computers. But to be shut inside all summer, staring at a screen, isn’t doing their health any good.
Of course, you mightn’t have the time or energy to play a dozen outdoor games with them every afternoon. Even Superdad and Supermom need a break sometimes!) But if you set your kids a simple gardening task, like watering the flowers, that’s a great way to keep them occupied and working outside in the fresh air. You can enjoy some time to yourself, reading your book in the sunshine, while keeping an eye on their progress.
We’ve already mentioned how gardening teaches children mindfulness. It also teaches them to be focused on a particular task. To be patient as they wait for the fruits of their labour to pay off. To care for the earth and the plants they’re working with. To foster a sense of community as they work together towards a common goal.
These are wonderful skills and attributes to instil in your kids early on. They might even learn how to grow their own food when they’re older – how cool is that?! As hunter-gatherers, we knew how to forage for supplies. But suburban and city life has diluted things until kids nowadays think a salad comes out of a plastic-covered box!
So it’s time to get back to basics. To use a “farm-to-fork” mentality. And to show your children all the wonderful things that can be achieved by working with the earth.
As well as shaping your kids into more caring, considerate adults, gardening can improve their brain’s capacity to learn. They learn to process new information (e.g. how to care for a particular plant), which they can then recall later and apply it in a similar situation (such as caring for a plant in the same family). This builds up their cognitive function, which can lead to them performing better at school. Hooray!
You know when you’re in a bad mood and you feel really claustrophobic? It’s like the walls are closing in on you, everything irritates you and you feel like you might implode. Then, as soon as you force yourself outside for a jog in the park, you suddenly feel a thousand times better.
Of course, this is partly down to exercise. But even the simple act of being in a green space can make you feel happier. There’s a reason why people put plants in their homes. Or why we bring flowers to loved ones when they’re sick. It’s because being in nature, surrounded by colours and freshness and life, makes us feel good.
So by raising your kids on a regular dose of gardening, you’re helping them to become healthier, happier people as a result. Well done, you.
You know how great gardening can be for your physical, mental and emotional health. Now it’s time to pass that knowledge onto your kids. Get them out into the garden today, show them how much fun they can have with nature and enjoy your summer of learning together!