What is a Child Garden?
A Child Garden, or more commonly known as a Children’s Garden is a dedicated space designed to spark a child’s sense of wonder and discovery, where they can interact with plants, learn about the environment, and develop a deeper appreciation for the natural world around them.
The focus is often on creating an immersive and engaging experience that is tailored to the needs and interests of young children based on grade level.
These gardens are often filled with interactive exhibits, hands-on activities, and educational programs that encourage children to explore and experiment with different aspects of gardening, ecology, and sustainability.
The benefits of spending time in nature are well-documented, from reducing stress and improving mental health to boosting creativity and cognitive development. (1)
“Moving to greener urban areas was associated with sustained mental health improvements, suggesting that environmental policies to increase urban green space may have sustainable public health benefits.”
Whether it’s digging in the dirt, planting seeds, blowing dandelion seedheads away, or discovering the intricacies of a butterfly’s life cycle, a children’s garden is a place where children can engage all their senses and let their imaginations run wild.
Why Having a Garden is Important for Child Development
One of the key goals of a children’s garden is to inspire a love of nature and a sense of stewardship for the environment. By providing children with a safe and welcoming space to learn about plants, insects, and other aspects of the natural world, these gardens help to foster a deeper connection between children and the planet.
Children’s gardens provide an opportunity for children to learn about the natural world. Children can observe the life cycles of plants, insects, and animals, teaching them science and curating a sense of responsibility and problem-solving.
Caring for plants requires attention to detail and consistency, and children must learn to anticipate and solve problems, such as pests or weather changes. As they watch their plants grow, children can develop a sense of pride and accomplishment in their hard work.
Furthermore, by getting their hands dirty, they can also develop an appreciation for the earth and learn about sustainable practices, such as composting and reducing waste. Spending time outside in the garden can help children get their daily dose of vitamin D, which is essential for strong bones and overall health.
Planting with Native Plants Helps Children and the Ecosystem
One of the most significant benefits of planting with native plants is that they support local ecosystems. Native plants provide food and habitat for local wildlife, such as birds, butterflies, and bees.
By attracting pollinators and other beneficial insects, native plants can help support healthy ecosystems and biodiversity. Children can learn about the importance of supporting local ecosystems and how native plants play a crucial role in this process.
Another benefit of planting with native plants is that they can help improve air and water quality. Native plants have adapted to local soils and climate conditions, making them more resistant to pests and disease.
This means that they require fewer pesticides and fertilizers, which can help reduce pollution and runoff into local waterways. Additionally, the deep root systems of native plants can help prevent erosion and absorb pollutants from the soil, improving water quality.
In addition to physical and cognitive benefits, gardening can also have a positive impact on a child’s emotional wellbeing. Spending time outside in nature can help children reduce stress and anxiety and improve their mood. Gardening can also provide a sense of calm and mindfulness, allowing children to focus on the task at hand and relax.
What Should Be in a Children’s Garden?
When selecting plants for a children’s garden, prioritize those that are easy to grow and maintain. Native plants are great options because they require minimal care and provide essential habitats for pollinators, while also providing year-round opportunities for educational play.
There are also sensory plants, such as herbs that can also be incorporated to appeal to children’s senses and provide opportunities for learning and exploration.
To create a safe and secure space, consider enclosing the garden with a fence or natural barriers such as shrubs or hedges. Add child-sized tools such as shovels and watering cans to enable children to tend to the plants and engage in garden maintenance.
Natural play areas, such as log piles, rocks, and tree stumps, can also be incorporated into a children’s garden to promote outdoor play and exploration. These features provide children with opportunities to engage in imaginative play, develop motor skills, and engage their sense of wonder and curiosity about the natural world.
How Do You Make a Child Garden?
Creating a children’s garden can be a fun and educational activity that doesn’t require a lot of space. Even a small balcony or patio can be turned into a children’s garden with some creativity and planning. You can start out small and gradually build on the garden over time.
Most importantly, involve the children in the process of creating the garden. This will not only make the garden more meaningful to them, but it will also provide them with opportunities to learn and develop important life skills.
- Alcock, Ian, et al. “Longitudinal effects on mental health of moving to greener and less green urban areas.” Environmental science & technology 48.2 (2014): 1247-1255. https://doi.org/10.1021/es403688w