20 Jul Garden – A Place Of Learning And Developing Life Skills For Children
For our family, summertime means spending time in the garden and on the bank of the river Tisa. We have a piece of land (1200 square feet) where we grow our vegetables, with quite a few fruit trees here and there. Before starting to grow our garden I’d never been aware of the many benefits of gardening for children. To be honest, I’m a beginner gardener. I grew up in the town building, regularly visiting grandparents in the village, but not much helping in the garden work there. On the contrary, my husband grew up with parents selling vegetables for a living, and he helped them as a young boy. He is now a leader of our small gardening business in which we all participate, including the kids.
There are so many benefits of gardening for children:
- They get the knowledge and experience about food production.
- Being in the fresh air and touching the earth with hands and bare feet is healthy for their body and mind.
- While helping in practical work, they gain a sense of worth.
- They develop work habits.
- It’s the beginning of developing good eating habits and healthy food consciousness.
Almost every day during mealtime, our kids exclaim: “Look, this is from our garden!” They can feel the difference between our products and those from the shop or other conventional producers. They know that the Earth is one of our mothers and that we should treat Her respectfully. And they are more and more aware that you need to invest your time and energy to get healthy food on your plate.
At this moment in the world’s history, producing our food naturally and preserving nature is of topmost importance for humanity. Along with technological progress, there is increasing pollution of the natural conditions of life. Our generations can witness a visible decline in the quality of food, water, and air during our own lifetimes. Our founder Acarya Srila Prabhupada had predicted it many years ago and wanted devotees to live in farm communities where they could produce their own food, live simply, and practice spiritual life in the mode of goodness.
My husband and I feel the urge to practice that within our family, to educate our children about the importance of simple living and high thinking, and to give them practical skills for living self-sufficiently and producing their necessities of life as much as possible. It’s not easy to do that and requires more physical work than living comfortably in a city apartment and doing some office work. But, on the other hand, living in a village or on a farm is much more peaceful, without the rush, traffic, noise, and overwhelming stimulus of a modern city lifestyle. Having a slow rhythm of daily activities, a lot of body movements in the fresh air, beautiful natural scenery in front of your eyes, and healthy food that you produce with love and care – along with the spiritual practice, nourish your body, mind, and soul. And of your children.
The things that children can do to help in the garden include:
- watering the plants (I think it’s a favorite one for kids of all ages),
- sowing the seeds,
- planting seedlings,
- pulling out weeds,
- raking (usually, children like to use gardening tools for adults),
- picking ripe vegetables and fruits.
Watering the plants and picking fruits and vegetables is enough for young children, and older kids can do more. When you produce food in the garden, there is more work to prepare veggies and fruits for cooking, and children can help with that too. You need to clean and wash ingredients more carefully than groceries from the shop and clean the mess afterward. All the organic waste from the kitchen and garden goes to compost or to feed the animals. Children from an early age learn about composting and responsible waste management and how everything has its purpose in the life circle.
By helping in the garden and doing real work, children get a sense of the cause and effect principle. They know that food does not fall from the sky, but you have to invest your energy to produce it. They can see how much it depends on nature’s will regarding rain and sun. They already know that nature works under higher authorities, so it helps them to develop respect for those authorities and ultimately for God as the highest authority. Living in the rhythm of nature and working in the garden go hand in hand with developing God consciousness if we set up a proper mood of respect and responsibility. We have our place and duties in interdependence with the world around us, with God in the center. We work hard to please the Lord and offer Him the fruits of our activities. In return, we feel a sense of purpose and fulfillment and advance spiritually.
The garden is a great place to learn many things kids should know about math, like measurements, counting, and using all four processes to calculate something. It’s perfect for nature study, from simple observing to exploring in detail plants, crops, insects, weather, seasons, etc. And, we can teach them about ecology, organic gardening, and permaculture and their importance for the health and wellbeing of all living entities on the earth.
Soon I will publish, here on the blog, some of my teaching materials about gardening that include many aspects of learning for children in 1-4 grade. Keep following Goloka Dreamland for more valuable information and inspiration on your spiritual homeschooling and parenting journey!