Playing in the garden, exploring the bugs and beasts, and growing plants are key elements for children to reconnect with nature’s processes. There is a growing body of scientific evidence that gardening therapy is effective for children’s mental health and well-being.
After gardening, some children show improved self-esteem, better concentration, improved self-understanding and interpersonal relationships, improved ability to work in groups and organise and initiate, show higher levels of creative play, increased inquisitiveness, increased motivation in the classroom, improved communication and observational skills, better decision-making and problem solving skills, broadening cognitive development and improved co-ordination in children with learning disabilities.
Children growing produce are more likely to eat fruit and vegetables, show greater levels of knowledge about nutrition, and more likely to continue healthy eating habits throughout their lives. At school, gardening therapy improves academic achievement across all abilities. It especially deepens children’s understanding of scientific and environmental knowledge and skills as well as understanding the wider curriculum.
In children with ADHD attention span is improved. For disengaged children, gardening can connect and integrate. For some, gardening reduces stress and anger and improves aggressive behaviour. Although not a ‘cure-all’, it is a valuable tool to support children’s mental health and well-being.
Rebecca is a London-based gardening therapist and garden designer www.rebeccasmithgardens.co.uk