Getting Dirty with the Family

7 Benefits to Getting Kids in the Garden

This is a guest post from Pasquale R. Mingarelli. Pasquale spent 11 years on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ (now called Cru) and currently works as a Christian speaker, adjunct college instructor, and nature photographer. He posts a photo and Bible verse each day on his blog site, where he also writes about encountering God in the outdoors. You can connect with Pasquale on Twitter. If you want to guest post on my blog, check out my guest post guidelines and submit your post.

Getting Dirty with the Family -

The other day I found myself down and back at it again—back down on the ground getting dirty digging in the soil. I couldn’t wait to get back in the garden with the coming of spring. My five-year-old son was right there with me shoveling to break up the soil. When it came time to put the lettuce and spinach seeds in the ground, my six-year-old daughter joined us.

We began to bring our kids in the garden with us when they were only two years old. Sure, they didn’t get a lot done, but we started to “plant a seed” in them. Today they continue to join us in the planting, watering, and harvesting. They really like the harvesting part. A lot of produce from our garden, like strawberries and blueberries, never make it to the house. Because we grow without chemical pesticides, they often eat as we harvest.

They both work their own little gardens in the corner of the yard. My daughter likes to plant cherry tomatoes so she can pick and eat them right off the vine. My son likes to plant flowers that he can give to his mother. I promise you, I don’t get jealous when he gives my wife flowers. I’m happy to see him enjoy getting outside and seeing how nature works.

Last fall, I wrote a guest post on Jackie’s blog about the benefits of getting kids outside. In this post, let’s look at some specific benefits of getting kids in the garden.

Seven Benefits of Kids in the Garden

1) Eat your veggies: When kids grow things in a garden, they gain an interest in eating fruits and vegetables. This is simply a by-product of their curiosity and involvement. Kids want to eat what they plant in the garden. Even when they don’t normally like a certain vegetable, they often want to try it because it came from their backyard. And many fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries and tomatoes, taste much better when they come from the backyard garden.

2) Stress relief: Gardening works to decrease stress. This one is good for kids and mom and dad.

3) Family time: Gardening is something the family can do together and makes a great family activity. This goes for both outside and later at the kitchen table or preparing meals, when you can enjoy the fruits of your labor together.

4) Kids like bugs: In the garden, we find both good bugs and bad bugs. Gardening works as a bridge in teaching kids about the role that different bugs play in the garden and environment. This can easily lead to useful science projects.

5) Spiritual teachable moments: The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.” (NASB) We can plant and water in our garden, but only God makes things grow. This is true both spiritually and physically. God designed a natural system with the sun, the rain, the dirt, and the air to make things grow. He has spiritually designed us to follow Him and grow. Just like a plant that does not flourish without the light of the sun, we do not flourish without the light of God’s Word. We need to read it and let it shine on our hearts.

7) Electronic devices: Gardening gets the kids outside and away from electronic devices. In a world of “connecting” through media, gardening gets kids connected with the world and how nature works through a backyard or community garden.

We are raising an environmentally minded generation, but they never spend time in the environment. Gardening gets kids involved in the process of how food comes out of the environment and it also gets kids out into the environment. Gardening makes the environment hands-on and gets kids in the sun, under the sky, and into the breeze. That alone has countless benefits.

Question: Have you seen the benefits of getting kids outside to work in a garden? What other benefits would you add to this list? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

photo credit: boy holding bunch carrots via photopin (license)

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4 thoughts on “Getting Dirty with the Family

  1. Yeah, great post Pasquale. Thanks for posting it, Jackie. My wife and I have been gardening for over ten years. We gotten our kids involved quite a bit – from beginning to end. One thing about it is, we garden organically, so pulling weeds is the biggest hassle for our kids in a rather large garden. But one thing I can say, in addition to the list mentioned, kids learn the value of working hard.

    It’s important for them to realize that they foods they enjoy buying at the store is the result of somebody working hard at it.

    Additionally, they learn that all good things take time to process. In a world of quick fixes and push buttons, it has created an unrealistic perspective of what life is like, and gardening helps them see a more reality of life.

    • Alex, thanks for the thoughts! Hard work is needed for anything of value. It also good for the kids to see that some things just take time. Not everything is a button away.

      We grow organic too. My wife loves to pull weeds… go figure. I let her do. :-). The kids are learning to pitch in there.

      • You’re a good man, Pat – letting your wife take care of the weeds :-). We’ve had to figure out how to make it fun. Not always successful but sometimes it is. You pull weeds, and tell jokes, or share stories in the process. Makes time go by faster.