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Dirt and preschoolers just go together. There’s no two ways about it. But did you know that getting your hands in the dirt is actually good for you? Research shows that contact with the bacteria in dirt actually releases serotonin, which improves your mood and decreases anxiety. Or, to put it in toddler terms, letting him cover himself with the black stuff gives your little boy (or girl) a big head start in the race against depression.
You don’t need to make your yard into a pig pen and do daily mud baths to get this good effect, though. Just invite your toddler to help you garden. Seratonin isn’t the only benefit. He or she will also get to see first hand how life changes: how plants emerge from seeds, how they grow, and what their life cycles are. Responsibility will be learned; the little plants respond quickly to both good stimuli—the watering can—or bad—a careless stomp. Taking care of a garden can help your preschooler learn responsibility and some cause/effect.
So—how to start? Here’s a simple four step plan:
- Measure off a little piece of your own garden for your preschooler’s private kingdom. 30-50 by 30 cm is a good starting point.
- Choose some easy to grow seeds, and let your preschooler child select himself from them what he wants to grow and where to put it. Some quick growing plants are beans, peas, and pumpkins. Make sure he is planting enough that even if one type of seed fails, it won’t be a complete null.
- Show your child how to plant, but let him do it himself. Give him some popsicle sticks to mark exactly where the seeds went, and let him water, too. Share with him how often he’ll need to water, and how many days it’ll be before the little seed comes up.
- Visit the garden with your preschooler every day. Remind him when watering is necessary, show him how to pull weeds when that time comes, and take lots of pictures documenting the emerging seedling and daily growth! You can also give your child a notebook and have him draw pictures of the garden and its changes every few days.
That’s it!! There’s nothing complicated about gardening with your preschooler: on the contrary, it’s a wonderful experience that both of you are almost certain to love.
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