Children are miracles in action. Their ability to absorb information is incredible. They are always looking at things with a different perspective. Gardening can teach children many life lessons many of which are priceless.
I believe gardening builds community, entertains us, feeds us, fulfills us, among other things. First off are vegetables. Second are gardening lessons in general.
Radishes and greens
When you are teaching children they often have a short attention span(ok! They have no attention span). Therefore you want to get results as soon as possible. By planting radishes and greens within 30 days you have a product they can see and eat. This teaches them what they do matters and often it matters in a time frame they can see rather quickly. I think this also illustrates to them a principle we are familiar with, actions have consequences. We often say this in the negative, but it is just as important to show this in the positive. Doing something now produces positive results later.
Beans and peas(or other legumes)
These plants are nitrogen fixers. When we plant them this year they put nitrogen into the soil. Next year when we plant something else there, the nitrogen “helps” the new plant. This shows them there is a symbiotic relationships in nature. That often we do things now to “help” others later. We are here to encourage nature in its ability to provide. We show all things have a symbiotic relationship with everything else. When we plant something here this year it provides something else next year. In life we do things now knowing down the road it will make someones life easier.
Tomatoes, summer squash, and peppers
These are prolific producers from a small space. By planting these we usually get excess of what we can eat. What do we do with the excess? Most of the time we give it away. We teach children when we have more that enough we “share”. Not because we have to, but because we want to. We realize inherently our community will be better off by us sharing of our surplus. We can also show what we do with surplus, by canning, preserving or other methods. By working hard we teach them to make a difference. Not just a difference in their own family, but in their community and neighborhood.
Potatoes, carrots and other root crops teach us that what we do not see matters. We usually do not eat the greens of root crops. We wait all season and wonder what it is we are getting. The child says ‘there is nothing here’, but alas at the end of the season, food. This teaches a child what you see on the surface is not the whole story. People they meet will not be just the first impression. An idea is more than the initial pitch line. These are such important life lessons.
In this day and age of all things digital. Pumpkins teach us gardening is fun, and what it produces can give us entertainment. Once the harvest is over is about the time we retrieve pumpkins from the garden. We carve them up and have a fun filled evening with our family. This is what gardening teaches us. A family activity for all. Bonding time for all family members. A way to involve the neighborhood.
Gardening in general
By gardening we teach our kids numerous things without saying a word
- Food does not come from a store. When we see where our food comes from we inherently have a greater respect for the food. We appreciate the hard work which goes into it. It now has value. The food is not something to be picked up at the store. Human hands were involved. We see a pepper in winter and understand it is not normal to have a fresh pepper in winter.
- A seed applies to the whole world. A seed looks like it has no life in it. If you give it the proper environment it blossoms and becomes food. Sustenance for the soul as we say. Just like an idea or child. Given the proper time and care you idea becomes reality and the child becomes a functioning adult capable of providing for themselves.
- The earth is a provider not a ‘resource’. We learn we can’t continue to take from the garden, we must put back into it. We coexist with the earth, we are to be stewards not pillagers. The earth provides for us, not the other way around. This is not to say we should hold the earth as some sort of god, but we understand it gives us life and we respect it. We understand we can’t just throw everything away and bring in more from somewhere else.
- Working hard has its rewards. By working we do something others won’t do. Gardening is hard work, but it pays in the end. This is a lesson understood by all. When you work at something you get a reward. In this case it is food. Which is why many do not garden. It is a whole heap of hard work. It is easier to work at a job to get money to go to the store to get a carrot rather than till the soil, plant a seed, wait, then harvest.
- You can become more self-sufficient. When you garden you realize you can provide for yourself. If something goes wrong or even if it doesn’t, you have the eternal peace of mind you can feed yourself. I think this is the most important lesson to get from gardening. To pass along the knowledge to someone they can feed themselves is the most empowering thing you can give.
How has you life been changed by gardening or other lessons given to you by your elders?
Making Life’s Road a Little Smoother