Children today have access to lots of great and new technology that allows them to do so much from behind a screen. With a plethora of social media platforms and advancements in things like virtual reality, children are able to essentially go anywhere in the world without leaving the comfort of their own home. While this sounds amazing, this leads to children missing out on all of the great benefits that the outdoors offers. Katie Guitreau, head of events at LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens, emphasizes just how important it is, stating that, “as humans, our bodies are physically, mentally, and emotionally healthier when we spend time in nature. Since humanity began, we have been a part of nature. Humans have only become primarily indoor creatures in the past century, and with that, we have lost a bit of what we were created for.”
She continues to emphasize how this specifically applies to children: “Place any young child in the garden and see what they do. They explore, they touch, they smell, they dig. As long as the caregivers allow them to do these things, children are naturally drawn to the dirt.” Children need to be outside, and gardening is a fun and engaging way to get them outside and playing in the dirt again. In the long run, this will help build them into healthier and happier people.
BENEFITS OF GARDENING
Gardening has a multitude of mental and physical health benefits. Just being outdoors can have a positive calming effect on children. It replenishes their minds and allows them to practice self-awareness as they look to avoid stepping on delicate plants, for example. It also provides a boost to one’s immune system. The exposure to a variety of different microbes helps to build up one’s immune system that can help prevent a lot of issues like allergies and some autoimmune diseases.
Gardening is a form of exercise that engages the whole body. Children are up and moving; they dig, plant, and nurture a seed as it grows. They understand what works and doesn’t work. They are conscious of the fact that their decisions have a direct effect on a living thing. This engagement of the mind, body, and heart helps to build healthier and happier children.
HOW TO GET STARTED
Getting started is simple. If you do not know much about gardening, go to a local nursery with some questions, and they will be happy to give some advice and suggestions. Guitreau’s rule of thumb is: “right plant, right place, right practice.” The more children practice, the better they become.
As long as they try, they are moving in the right direction. Failure will be a big fear, but it is important to encourage children to try again and again. Guitreau even goes on to say that “most horticulturists will tell you they have seen more plants die than survive.” Even a professional in the field has to face failure sometimes. This should be an encouragement to children as they embark on their gardening journeys.
SPACES IN THE COMMUNITY
If your own backyard isn’t an accessible place to start, there are several spaces in the Baton Rouge area that give children a space to discover a love and passion for gardening. The Children’s Garden, managed by the LSU AgCenter, is a fun and educational outdoor space located at the heart of Baton Rouge. This interactive space encourages children to enjoy and learn about the world of gardening all while playing. Guitreau shares all of the unique things that can be found there, including lots of educational signage to learn about the different elements there, a sensory space where children can touch and smell plants, and even a story walk in the woods where you can read a story through the forest.
Community spaces like this and even a small garden in your own backyard can have such an impact on children. In a world that is so fast-paced and hectic, make sure that they are not missing out on all of the wonderful benefits that the world of gardening has to offer.