It is true that gardening with children is not always idyllic.
But even when it's chaotic, it can be very beneficial. Scientific research claims that being in contact with mud and dirt can improve the mental and physical health of children. Gardening can help children burn extra energy and control impulses, develop strong immune systems, and voluntarily consume more fruits and vegetables.
Despite the negative news from studies showing that teens spend an average of six to nine hours in front of screens, more families with children are focusing on gardening, much more than ten years ago. According to the National Gardening Association, this practice with the little ones increased by 25 percent from 2008 to 2013, as families learn about the hidden benefits of this ancient hobby.
When my four year old is playing outside, he looks visibly relaxed outside. But he also has self-awareness to avoid stepping on the most delicate plants. Similarly, my one year old stops whining and spends his time drawing on the dirt.
My children are not alone. The natural stimulation of being outside seems to replenish exhausted minds through self-discipline, the part of the brain that controls concentration, urges checks, and delays gratification.
Research conducted on 169 Chicago youth found that kids who had greener views from their apartments did much better on the self-discipline test. Of these results, a fifth of the variation could be explained by differences in the "greenness" of their environment.
Those benefits may be even greater for children with attention deficit disorder. A survey of 96 families in the Midwest asked parents which activities seemed to decrease their daughters' symptoms and which they said increased the deficit. Parents consistently chose “green” activities, explaining that they had a positive effect on the child's symptoms.
"Most of us have a deficit of a fairly significant nature and it would be healthier if we could address that deficit by spending a little more of our time in an outdoor setting," argued Robert Zarr, founder of Park Rx America and a pediatrician. from Washington. Park Rx America encourages physicians and other healthcare providers to “pre-write” nature time.
That time may even allow us to use our senses in new ways, according to experts.
"It's about planting and seeing how it grows, but it's also about other things," says Richard Louv, author ofLast Child in the Woods and co-founder of Children and Nature Network. "It's about turning over the rocks, it's about having dirty hands and wet feet, about using the senses more and being in the world," he said.
Gardening combines the general benefits of being outside with the opportunity to tackle a project. My four-year-old son proudly waters the blueberry bushes and weeds around the garden fence. He is building his ability to concentrate, as well as his executive function and the ability to manage information and his reaction to different situations. For example, he quickly learned that his showerhead could overflow with water if he wasn't paying attention. Older children, at a point, can take responsibility for their own green space.
"If the kid has a lonely experience creating his own garden, there is special magic to that," explains Louv.
My one year old is not old enough to do anything in the garden, but he joins us anyway. He spends most of his time playing with dirt and mud. And he also tries to put it in his mouth. When I grab it, he looks up with a vaguely guilty expression and spots around his lips. It sounds rude, but those things can be good for him.
Research indicates that it is essential for young children to develop a healthy “microbiome” or personal microbial ecosystem. Although there are some microbes - bacteria, fungi, and viruses - that make us sick, many more are essential to our health.
"The immune system is there to act like a gardener or a national park ranger," explains Jack Gilbert, a microbiologist at the University of Chicago and co-author of the new book.Dirt is Good. "It is there to promote the abundance and growth of good bacteria, as well as act as a barrier to the generation of bad bacteria," he stresses.
Not being exposed to enough microbes during childhood can lead to an underdeveloped immune system, which can cause a number of problems, according to Gilbert. It also refers to autoimmune diseases, inflammatory bowel disorders, and allergies. Being close to the ground, in the garden, or otherwise, can help children develop that healthy microbiome that helps prevent these problems.
“Picking up the soil and putting it on your face. There's nothing wrong with that, ”Gilbert points out.
By Shannon Brescher Shea
The Washington Post