Get kids in the garden: It provides exercise and teaches food ownership

Have you been thinking about starting a family garden? New research has highlighted the benefits gardening can have for children of all ages. While it’s pretty well-known that gardening can be a source of great physical activity and pride for adults, it turns out that the benefits of gardening extend to children, too. Digging in the dirt, raking leaves, pulling up weeds and harvesting hard-earned produce can provide children with exercise, confidence and a sense of food ownership that simply cannot be replaced.

As the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) reports, a recent study published in the journal HortTechnology has found that children reap a number of health benefits from gardening and related tasks.

According to the ASHS press release, the study was conducted by a South Korean team of scientists and featured 17 children. The kids were asked to participate in a range of gardening activities, including digging, raking, weeding, mulching, hoeing, sowing seeds, harvesting, watering, mixing growing medium, and transplanting specimens. Two different garden locations were used in the study; one garden was in a “high tunnel,” and another was located in an outdoor area.

The ASHS press release notes that the kids visited the gardens on two occasions, and each child was instructed to perform five different tasks during their visits. Each child was given five minutes to finish each activity, and they were given a five-minute break between tasks. The press release states that “the children wore portable telemetric calorimeters and heart rate monitors so that researchers could measure their oxygen uptake, energy expenditure, and heart rate.”

The researchers found that the various gardening activities provided the children with moderate to high intensity exercise, and state that their findings show that gardening can be a great source of exercise for kids. Further, they say their data indicates gardening can help promote well-being and a healthy lifestyle.

While it’s no secret that gardening is tough work, the benefits of horticulture extend far beyond the physical. As PBS reports, gardening isn’t just physical exercise; it provides benefits to the brain, the soul and the family.

Gardening is a great bonding activity for families, and it helps give children a sense of responsibility and mindfulness. Planting and growing their own food can also be a great confidence-booster. and truly, is there anything more rewarding than making a delicious meal with fruits and veggies grown in your own backyard?

Studies have also shown that when kids have contact with the earth during activities like digging and planting, it decreases anxiety, boosts their mood and bolsters their learning experiences. Another study showed that kids who garden actually have higher scores in the sciences than children who do not.

The benefits of gardening are easy to see: Not only does gardening provide modern kids with much-needed exercise, but it can foster bonding in families, boost kids’ confidence and support their learning. Some of your fondest memories can come from digging in the dirt as a family, and it’s a great way to be more self-sufficient, too.

While gardening is widely recognized as a way to have more food freedom, the benefits of gardening for children is equally important — especially in today’s hyper-sanitized world. Kids love to play in the dirt; why not have them help make a beautiful garden that can feed the family, too?

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