With kids now spending an average of 30 per cent of their waking hours in front of a screen (according to the Australian Institute of Family Studies), it is more important than ever to encourage them to spend time outside. Giving them the responsibility of a garden (or even just a plant) can be a great way to start.
There are lots of benefits of introducing your children to gardening. Any not too many need much encouragement to dig and get dirty.
Not only will they gain self-confidence by watching something they have planted and tended turn into something beautiful or yummy, it will also teach them to pay more attention to the natural world such as weather systems, insects, and birds.
Gardens also encourage creativity. You could ask your child to create a recipe with the vegies that are ripe that day, or the best way to protect plants in sustainable ways. For example, ask questions such as ‘If you were a snail, what would stop you getting to this seedling’ and encourage research into whether a snail can cross sawdust.
Gardening brand Yates is doing their bit to encourage young gardeners with Australia’s Next Top Gardener competition, open to children up to 16 years of age.
With 22 per cent of Aussie kids claiming they either don’t enjoy gardening or haven’t tried it, Yates said there’s an urgent job to do to encourage more children to give it a go. Also concerning to Yates was the need to educate young Aussies on where their food comes from - with one in three kids thinking it comes from the supermarket as opposed to its original source like a farm or garden patch.
Angie Thomas, Horticulture Consultant to Yates, said experience and motherhood has taught her that nothing encourages kids to take up a healthy hobby more than making it a fun activity to share with their friends and family.
“Getting their hands dirty in the garden has been scientifically proven to increase serotonin levels through contact with soil and specific soil bacteria. Serotonin is a happy chemical that helps fight depression and improves immune systems. If children don’t get the opportunity to play in the dirt, it’s thought to contribute to an increased risk of allergies, asthma and mental illness,” Thomas said.
The competition closes on 14 October 2018. See www.nexttopgardener.com.au for details.