Playing with a Purpose: Gardening with your Children

Gardening and Nutrition Workshops at New Lands Farm

Using the seasons as a catalyst for learning can help connect kids to their environment and the seasonal cycles of their community. Garden-based learning is just one activity that is on many minds every spring. Stop and think what else cycles around each year and how you can use it as a point of entry to community-based education. Then take advantage of your local resources, following your interests and education through community engagement.

Gardening is a multidisciplinary activity embedded with learning every step along the way, from botany to soil science to meteorology.  Gardening with children encourages their natural inquisitiveness and experimentation. Plus, most kids love to get dirty! If your child loves being outside, gardening together will give you both a productive reason to spend more time in nature.

Garden-based learning is a fun and productive activity to try with your children. After you have planted your foods or flowers, your child can nurture them and watch them grow. As children nurture plants and watch them change, they learn about scientific concepts such as habitat and life cycle. On an even more basic level, they learn the logic of cause and effect relationships, for example, if a plant does not get water it will wither. Waiting for a bulb to flower or fruits to grow can teach patience, while plants that require a lot of watering can start discussions about responsibility.

Combining gardening with cooking can have a great impact on your child’s nutrition. Getting children involved in growing and preparing the foods they eat can have a positive impact on dietary choices. Incorporating whatever foods are ready to be eaten into your dinner can teach you to be creative and add variety to your meals. Plus, harvesting the result of your effort and enjoying it in a meal can teach your children about long-term rewards. Gardening and farming make vegetables fun, and instill in children the importance of understanding where food comes from.

If you don’t know anything about gardening, you can learn alongside your child, encouraging each other in a new activity. Families with children ages 5-12 are invited to attend a series of workshops on gardening and nutrition at New Lands Farm. The first workshop will meet on Tuesday, May 3 from 4pm-5pm. Each week will cover a different topic, and participants will get to work in a community garden plot. Call 413-787-0725 x422 for more information. 334 Birnie Avenue, West Springfield, MA. (FREE)

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