Dayami Rodriguez is the owner and Director of Royal Palm Montessori Academy. Over the last two decades, she has crafted a nurturing Montessori Program, fostering the holistic development of preschool children. In the following article, Dayami Rodriguez discusses how incorporating gardening into early education has a plethora of benefits for young children.
In the enchanting world of preschoolers, where curiosity knows no bounds, the simple act of planting a seed holds boundless potential. Gardening, often seen as an adult endeavor, unveils its transformative magic when it meets the eager hands and curious minds of young children. Beyond soil and sprouts, it nurtures essential skills and virtues, fostering growth in ways both tangible and profound.
To Maria Montessori, the outdoor classroom was just as important as the indoor classroom.
Dayami Rodriguez of Royal Palm Montessori Academy notes how it isn’t just that nature is considered interesting to explore. Dayami believes that being outside and interacting with nature is integral to a child’s emotional and physical development.
That’s why Montessori schools always include dedicated spaces for outdoor gardening. At many schools, such as Royal Palm Montessori in Boca Raton, Florida, every classroom has an outdoor gardening box.
Preschoolers and kindergarteners not only grow vegetables and fruits but also learn how to measure and chart plant growth to conduct various science experiments.
Growing plants isn’t just seen as a special activity option for preschoolers, it is seen as vital to their development and growth as well.
Dayami Rodriguez on Gardening and Development
Gardening has many of the same benefits for children that it offers for adults. On a basic level, gardening is an up-close and personal science lesson, but it offers numerous emotional and physical benefits at the same time.
It’s also easily accessible. A home or school garden is easy to create in spaces that are small, large, and every size in between. They can prosper on a windowsill, across acres of land, or in shared community spaces. Through gardening, preschool-age children will begin to gain a deeper understanding of nature and how to positively interact with the natural world.
Dayami Rodriguez of Royal Palm Montessori Academy explains that several studies over the past decade or so have highlighted the importance of including children in gardening activities. Not only do children learn more about plant ecology, but they also grasp the elements of proper nutrition early on. Those who garden also happen to be more likely to eat 38% more fruit and vegetables than those who do not.
Benefits of Gardening Early
A surprising number of enriching life skills for children are learned through the simple act of gardening. Studies consistently show that children involved with growing food experience a positive impact on their nutrition and diet. Those who learn about and participate in gardening early in their lives are also more likely to garden later on in their lives and maintain a better nutritional balance.
Other notable benefits include:
Dayami Rodriguez says that from digging holes to building structures and even watering, gardening is a great way to put all the body’s muscles to work. Muscles are used not only to carry tools and plants, but also to organize and balance objects involved in gardening.
Motor Skills and Sensory Development
Gardening helps children develop and master several elements of fine motor control. Fine motor skills used in gardening include digging with hands and properly holding tools such as trowels, clippers, and shovels. In addition, gross motor skills, such as gathering gardening supplies and moving plants to different areas of the garden, are also developed and improved.
Dayami Rodriguez of Royal Palm Montessori Academy explains that fundamental parts of gardening also reflect sensory development and stimulation. Children become well acquainted with the various colors of plants and flowers, as well as the feel of water and dirt.
Language Development, Problem-Solving, and Critical-Thinking Skills
Preschoolers not only discover the names of plants and their common parts, but also face decisions that require careful problem-solving, such as planning out a garden layout and maintaining a healthy space through pruning and other gardening skills.
Learning the names of plants and all of the parts of gardening can go a long way for their language development, especially since it is believed that young children must hear around 21,000 words a day to achieve an optimal level of language development.
Gardening is also seen as an effective gateway to developing both analytical and STEM abilities at a young age. Dayami Rodriguez also notes that it requires initiation and organization skills.
Lowering Stress and Improving Confidence
Just as it does with adults, gardening offers a good form of stress release for children as young as preschool age. Building self-confidence is a crucial part of a child’s ability to learn and grow. A lot of confidence — and recognizing the importance of patience of gardening — comes from the satisfaction of planning a garden, tending to it, and watching it grow or produce usable food.
Dayami Rodriguez says that with gardening, children can achieve the same sense of success in an activity they would usually only see adults doing. Gardening also acts as a good method for preschool children to calm themselves and understand ways to relax early in their lives.
Being outdoors, breathing fresh air, and simply experiencing nature are stress-reducers on their own, but those who have access to a garden or do any gardening have been shown to experience significantly fewer moments of stress each year compared to those who do not have garden access.
With each interaction in the garden, children not only learn about plant ecology but also cultivate essential life skills. Gardening becomes a gateway to language development, problem-solving, and critical thinking. As they nurture plants, children also nurture their own confidence and resilience, laying the foundation for a lifelong connection with nature. Gardening is more than just an activity; it’s a transformative experience that shapes the hearts and minds of young learners.