Encouraging a Love of the Outdoors through Gardening

Encouraging a Love of the Outdoors through Gardening Feature Photo

I grew up loving the outdoors, as a child I used to practically live in tree in our yard.  It had a perfect little nook where I could climb and hide away.  Whether I was watching the clouds pass me by or stuck with my nose in a book, that tree opened the doors to let my imagination run wild!

I’ve shared my love for the outdoors here, here and here.

I’m pretty sure my love for everything in nature was spawned by all the time I spent with my dad outside growing up.  I remember riding along with him to fix fence, spending days on the lake fishing, and bearing the cold and snow to scout coyote or deer.

I’m a believer that we all need our own unique connection to nature in order to appreciate it.  We all have our own story and our own memories that sparked our love for the outdoors, if we had the chance to interact with it on a deep, personal level.

As I got older, I searched for ways to share my gratitude for nature and the environment with others.  I went into the details a bit more with my DIY Pallet Planters {Part 2} post, but in the past I actually taught Environmental Science and then went on to be an advocate for outdoor classrooms with my position as a statewide Conservation Education Coordinator for a state agency and nonprofit as well as the state coordinator for both Project Learning Tree and Project WET Foundation.

The following post is an article I wrote for a local newspaper when I was a Conservation Education Coordinator.  I felt it was worth re-sharing here on CWC since we’ve been talking an awful lot about gardening lately. 

As a new gardener myself and a lover of the natural world, I recognize the impact gardening can have on younger generations in creating that personal connection to the outdoors.  May this article encourage you to get outside with your little ones and start that love for the outdoors by getting in the garden together.

Encouraging a love of the outdoors through gardening

Engaging children in the outdoors offers a multitude of benefits at any age: physical activity, development of self-esteem, reduced learning disability symptoms and enhanced socialization skills, to name a few.

In today’s digital world, the need for children and youth to reconnect to the outdoors is growing. Think back to your own childhood — do you recall a specific memory in the outdoors that instilled a love of nature you still have today? That connection, however minute it may have felt at the time, has established itself as part of your being.  You are not connected to nature by accident. You spent time in the outdoors — something today’s youth are doing for a smaller fraction of time.

If you love gardening and you have children or youth in your life, make it your mission to include them in your outdoor activities this summer. Maybe it’s a neighbor’s child, grandchildren on a weekend visit or even your own teenager who shows no interest in gardening at the moment. Whoever it may be, you have the privilege to share your love of nature with the next generation through the act of gardening.

Rustic Flowers & Wagon Wheel Image

Gardening with little ones

Early childhood is a sensory experience, and the garden has an abundance of stimuli awaiting exploration. Whether it’s the taste of a sweet herb, the smell of a fragrant flower, the sight of a butterfly floating by, the touch of a smooth watermelon or hearing the buzz of bees humming about; the outdoors feeds all of our senses.

Young children can participate in gardening in a variety of ways — they can get in the dirt and plant, have fun helping to water and join in on the harvest of produce.  A simple online search can lead you to a plethora of garden-based arts and crafts or children’s books just waiting to be brought to life by time spent outdoors.  A backyard garden develops a child’s confidence and patience while serving as an outdoor play area, allowing children to unwind and relax. By sharing outdoor experiences at an early age, we are shaping how nature is valued in young children’s lives.

Baby Tomato in Cage

Gardening with school-age children

Children in elementary and lower middle school grades can take on a role of ownership and responsibility in the garden. They can assist in selecting plants to grow and participate in regular maintenance. At this stage, you can incorporate mini-science lessons in your gardening activities — practice measuring and observing or basic plant and insect science. Pollinator gardens are great for school-age children. They have bright, fragrant blooms that attract butterflies, bees and other insects that can spark new curiosities.

Vegetable gardens are another great choice because children get excited about being able to eat what they have grown (don’t we all?), and they can be involved in the entire process from planting to food preparation. By leading a child outdoors, you are giving them hands-on learning opportunities, positive bonding experiences and nurturing their mind, body and soul.

Bell Pepper in Garden

Gardening with tweens and teens

Most tweens and teens today are connected to the digital world at all times, so rather than fighting the idea, learn to intertwine technology with the outdoors. Birdwatching, insect and plant identification, nature observation journals and various gardening apps can be downloaded to your teen’s device depending on their interests. Ask your tween to show you gardening ideas or recipes on Pinterest to inspire them to participate. Give them the reins when it comes to design and plant selection — if not for the entire garden, at least for a piece they can call their own.

Check out a local farmers market, participate in a community garden or find a way to share your harvest with others in need as a way to connect what you are doing at home with the world at large.

Working in the garden teaches life skills in growing food and caring for land while increasing self-understanding, interpersonal relationship skills, the ability to work with others and cultural awareness. Designing and maintaining a landscape or garden spawns an attitude of environmental stewardship. Getting outside is rejuvenating and restful, and yields an opportunity to unplug for a while, something both you and your teen could benefit from.

Green Beans on Counter

Reaping the harvest

Whether you’re spending time in the garden with a toddler granddaughter or a teenage son, prepare to harvest the bounty of time well spent — growing in your relationship with one another while making memories throughout a growing season. Make plans now to empower the youth in your life with the experience of gardening. By taking the time and opportunity to explore the natural world through gardening with the next generation, you are instilling a love and gratitude for nature that will carry on for years to come.

Fore more ideas check out:

 

Join the conversation by commenting at the bottom of the page:

  • Why do you love the outdoors? What memories do you recall that drew you in as a child?

  • How do you garden with your children or the little ones in your life?

  • What other ways can we engage kids in the outdoors today?

 

Be Still & Know…

the Country Wife signature for the Country Wife Chronicles blog

4 thoughts on “Encouraging a Love of the Outdoors through Gardening

  1. I too…have a deep love and appreciation for the outdoors! And yes, it all goes back to my childhood, and the times I spent with my dad, as he taught me about the different types of grasses and trees that were in abundance on our farm where I grew up! Mind you, my dad felt it was important to notice and know the differences in these types of vegetations and foliage, so there were very many impromptu quizzes on them! But I do cherish those simpler times and I continue to learn and grow more appreciative of the great abundance that is truly….The Great Outdoors!!!

    1. I simply could not agree more. Those childhood connections are truly everlasting and one of my greatest fears is that there is a whole generation of youth missing out on those personal connections to nature these days. I’m so glad you can appreciate where I’m coming from and I hope we all have a chance to share our love for the great outdoors with future generations to come! (And I remember those quizzes on grasses too 😉 )

  2. Great post! We need to encourage young people to get in touch with the outdoors, gardening, and the satisfaction they bring.

    1. Thanks so much for the confidence boost in my writing 🙂 And I absolutely agree…the outdoors provide so many benefits, they are absolutely worth sharing and inspiring future generations to disconnect from technology and reconnect to nature.

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