When I was growing up, our family had a large garden. We grew everything from squash, tomatoes, peppers to radishes and cucumbers. My great-grandparents who lived less than a mile away also had an extensive garden. The garden was the first place we would go to when we would go for a visit because that’s where we would usually find them!
My siblings and I often talk and laugh about our childhood gardening experiences. My Dad would instruct us to go out to the garden to weed. I can still picture all of us grumbling and complaining because we didn’t want to go out and do the work. (I called this kind of work, “back-breaking’ work.) But no matter how much we complained or tried to avoid it, we knew there was no escaping the dreaded weeding that needed to be done.
Now, with families of our own, we all look back at those times in the garden as some of our best memories growing up. In fact, we all want our own children to experience the same things we did while gardening.
Here are 4 great reasons we garden with our children and you should too!
1) Gardening teaches us about God’s creation.
The Bible says, “And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” (Genesis 1:29) How can one not be amazed when you take a tiny tomato seed in your hand, place it in the dirt, and watch it grow food for your family. Every year when I plant, I am in awe of the wonder of God’s creative order.
There’s never been a time that I’ve planted a tomato seed and it has magically turned into a pepper plant! Why? Because God created the world in a specific way. (We read about this in Genesis 1.) Let’s be honest, the complexity of how a plant develops from a seed to a full, fruit-bearing plant that is edible, nutritious and digestible for us, didn’t happen by chance. The garden is a great way to show this to your children!
2) Gardening teaches us how to work hard.
The Bible says, “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and keep it.” (Genesis 2:15) Today, it’s common thinking to believe that work is a result of the curse on mankind. But that’s not true. God charged Adam to take care of the garden while he was still perfect and had not fallen.
Sure, work can be tough but it’s something that we are commanded to do. We shouldn’t try to escape work, but we should look at it as part of kingdom building. And actually, the Bible says, “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” (2 Thess. 3:10). I’m not telling you to withhold food from your child if he or she doesn’t work, but the Bible clearly tells us what should happen if we do not work!
For young children, gardening is a great way to teach and show them how to work. This spring I had my 1 ½ year old daughter, Ivy, help pick up sticks in our garden beds. She loved helping! Learning to work and help out at a young age is a huge blessing to not only the child but the entire family. Simple things like picking up sticks or rocks, pulling weeds or watering are easy ways to get your children involved. (Plus, who doesn’t like accomplishing things? A little encouragement for completing a task is like water to a plant – your child will thrive on it!)
3) Gardening teaches us practical life skills.
Unlike our great-grandparents or even grandparents, we do not have to garden to survive. My grandpa’s family who was very poor relied on their garden for their survival. If their garden failed, they knew that the family would struggle to put food on the table and that meant hungry bellies.
Life has changed since then. We can go to a local grocery store and get almost anything we want. It’s a huge blessing.
However, most children today grow up not having a clue where their food comes from. They think a tomato shows up at the local grocery store and that’s that. Most, I’m willing to bet don’t even know that a tomato seed must be planted, watered and nurtured before it makes it to their dinner plate.
But even beyond that, think about the fact that the majority of kids grow up not knowing how to even grow basic food for themselves! Isn’t that crazy? Why not teach your children a practical skill that they can use for their entire lifetime? I think parents are doing their children a huge disfavor for not teaching their children how to grow food for themselves!
4) Gardening creates family memories.
As I mentioned in the beginning, my siblings and I love to reminisce about our gardening experiences as kids. It was something we worked together to accomplish together. We worked side by side planting and weeding. And we also got to enjoy the fruits of our labor by enjoying squash, radishes, cucumbers, and tomatoes together.
One summer my great-grandparents decided to plant an acre of strawberries. The five of us kids were the lucky winners to help plant, weed and harvest. Working side by side, in the summer heat, with our parents and great-grandparents is something we all cherish looking back as adults.
After our work was done, our great-grandma would give us a dish of vanilla ice cream with fresh strawberries on top and we would sit outside and talk. Our great-grandparents have since passed, but I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything in the world!
Gardening is a great way for families to learn about God’s creation while teaching, learning and working together. Believe me, the harvest you reap together won’t just be a full basket of family-grown produce! The rewards you and your children reap will far surpass anything you can imagine!