Little hands gathering fennel for juicing with apples and cucumber (photo: Anne Binder)
I’m sure you’d agree that children who garden have fun and that it may motivate them to actually eat more vegetables but would you expect gardening to reduce anxiety, depression and ADHD symptoms? Read on to learn more and be inspired.
My friend Anne Binder has the children at her school, Sunrise Montessori School of Roseville, participate in gardening and juicing and I just love it! She told me that the kids love gardening and that she’s been doing it with her pupils for 31 years now. They are constantly in the garden, weeding, raking, planting and reaping the benefits of their hard work.
They recently harvested some fennel that they had been growing and seeing the pictures she shared on Facebook just made my day! She kindly gave me permission to share them via a blog so here goes:
We grew the fennel and then the children picked it and we made juice with the fennel, apples and cucumber.
Here are just some of the things she overheard the children saying on harvest day:
- This is so much fun. I love fennel.
- The leaves are beautiful.
- Gardening is my favorite thing to do. We have a garden at home.
- I love tomatoes.
- Look at the bees
And this is some of what she heard the day they released butterflies into the garden
- Look he’s flying into the tree.
- Are they going to come back?
- Oh look it wants to stay at our school!
And then it was time to juice the fennel with apples and cucumbers and they all got stuck in
They loved it. They also loved the lovely licorice smell of the leaves and fennel was new to all of them. None of them had seen it or eaten it before – but they were good sports and tried it. I also cut up slivers of fennel to taste by itself and most of them tried it too.
What fun! What joy! And what a wonderful learning opportunity for these kids!
Other than the fun factor, this type of activity has far-reaching impacts in terms of their future vegetable and fruit consumption, and even their mental health and focus.
Gardening has an impact on vegetable preference and consumption as reported in this 2016 paper – Previous Gardening Experience and Gardening Enjoyment Is Related to Vegetable Preferences and Consumption Among Low-Income Elementary School Children.
Children with more gardening experience had greater vegetable exposure and higher vegetable preference and consumed more vegetables compared with children who reported less gardening experience.
And this paper – Involving children in cooking activities: A potential strategy for directing food choices toward novel foods containing vegetables concludes that these cooking activities.
can increase their willingness to taste novel foods and direct food choices towards foods containing vegetables.
As always I like to make the connection to anxiety, mental health, ADHD and overall well-being. There is actually research that supports how good you feel after spending time outdoors and in the garden.
In this 2016 paper – Gardening is beneficial for health: A meta-analysis the authors report:
a wide range of health outcomes, such as reductions in depression, anxiety, and body mass index, as well as increases in life satisfaction, quality of life, and sense of community.
In a recent blog I write about how Most children with anxiety relapse, regardless of treatment: Now is the time for Nutritional Psychiatry! Let us also add gardening to the mix!
Green outdoor settings appear to reduce ADHD symptoms in children across a wide range of individual, residential, and case characteristics.
And in this paper Home Gardening and the Health and Well-Being of Adolescents, the authors report that gardening was
positively associated with physical activity and improved mental health and well-being. Students who participate in gardening report slightly lower levels of depressive symptoms and enhanced emotional well-being and experience higher family connection than students who do not participate in gardening.
They conclude that we should be including gardening in future interventions for young people and I couldn’t agree more.
I hope these pictures and the research has inspired you to get out and do some gardening with the children in your life, either at home or at school or in a community setting.
If you are already doing some form of gardening or food activity with children please feel free to share so we can inspire more of this.
Finally, a thank you to Anne and your pupils for making my day and inspiring this blog post!