It can be a task in itself to get your kids outside and away from all that technology indoors. But you don’t need to go far with them to have some fresh air — there are so many opportunities for fun and learning within your own back garden!
Development in the early years
For very young children, playing in the garden can be a great way to develop early-stage garden education skills. Messy play is a great way to improve sensory and cognitive development, whilst having fun. There is an abundance of research behind the advantages of messy play and how this unstructured form of activity can really help your child develop. This can be done in the garden with sand, water or even mud! It’s all about breaking down the usual rules that your child might face, such as being restricted to a play mat or not being too disruptive with toys. Encourage your child to draw shapes with different (child-friendly) tools and their fingers in various materials — this can help children to build up their finger and arm muscles, which is useful for when they come to hold a pen.
Plus, there are plenty of new experiences and textures that a child can discover out in the garden. They become used to handling solid objects, such as toys, and these are easy for children to learn because they don’t change shape. For example, letting your child come into contact with mud, a softer material, lets children broaden their knowledge and allows them to compare and understand new textures.
Learning in general
Weather permitting, doing homework outside in the garden can be very refreshing. Your child might have spent all day behind a desk at school doing their work and it’s nice to have a break from this when they come home. Make it easy for your child to work outdoors by purchasing a gazebo or having a table and chairs outdoors where homework can be done. 85% of teachers reported that they saw a positive impact on their pupils’ behaviour when they were taught outside. In addition to this, 92% of pupils said that they preferred their lessons to be outdoors. In a study between pupils who learnt indoors and those who learnt outdoors, those who were outside were found to have a better understanding of their responsibility to care for the environment.
Learning about healthy eating
Studies have noted that children who grow their own fresh fruit and vegetables are more inclined to try and eat them. This can be a great way to improve their diet and get them outdoors. Easy fruit and vegetables to grow include strawberries, cabbage, radishes and potatoes. You can decide on the size of your patch and watch as your child runs outside to see what has grown that week.
Giving your children a little responsibility
Children like to feel like they have an important responsibility. Give them some tasks to do daily, or even weekly, and it’s likely that they’ll start to look forward to spending time in the garden. One simple task to get children outdoors could be to grow a sunflower. Each day your child can head outdoors to see how their plant is growing and practise some maths skills through measuring. This can be exciting for a child, as often the sunflower will grow taller than them!
While you’re working on a bigger task, like replenishing the topsoil of your flowerbeds, let your child tidy up around the garden. Let them trim the edges of your garden, water the plants or do some de-weeding — it’s a nice way to spend time together, too.