Ah, preschoolers. They’re no longer toddlers, but they’re not quite big kids yet, either. While they are branching out, exploring the world and their place in it, they are still dependent on support and guidance. That’s why gardening can boost your preschooler’s development in a fun and interesting way.
Below are areas of typical development in preschool-aged kids. Remember that each child is different and may gain these skills at different times. If you have concerns about your child’s development, please reach out to your pediatrician or family doctor.
Gross Motor Skills
Gross motor skills are those that use the large muscles of the body – the arms, legs and core. Preschoolers are mastering hopping with both feet together, throwing and catching balls with some accuracy, and climbing stairs with alternating feet. In the garden, support your preschooler’s gross motor skills by having her dig holes for plants with a child-sized hand spade. Challenge him to hop like a frog to the end of the garden bed and back. Your preschooler can use two hands to carry supplies for you, too! Go helper!
Fine Motor Skills
The opposite of gross motor, fine motor skills allow us to pick up small items, hold and use pencils, and button our shirts. Preschoolers are becoming more adept at these skills than they were as toddlers, and can hold crayons in a pencil-grip, rather than the whole hand. They can trace simple shapes like circles with some accuracy, then cut that shape out with kid-safe scissors. Support fine motor skill development in the garden by having your helper pick out individual seeds to plant, pinch off unwanted growth or dead leaves, and pick fruits and vegetables. At crafting time, your preschooler can color and cut out plant signs, to indicate where the various herbs, fruits and vegetables were planted.
Speech & Language
No longer (I hope) simply shouting, “NO!” to indicate adverse opinions, preschoolers are becoming more verbal, better able to understand spoken language, and are better able to use it to express themselves. Along with verbal skills, this age group tends to be interested in hearing and telling stories. As you and your preschooler tend to your garden, name the plants, imagine the plant pulling up its roots and going on an adventure. Find books like, I Can Grow a Flower, by Dawn Sirett, which teaches plant life cycle to read before bed.
Social and Emotional
As your preschooler develops, the ability to understand and control emotions develops as well. Continue your garden storytelling by observing the plants and imagining how they feel. Are they going to feel so light and healthy after the dead leaves are trimmed away? Did we forget to water and now they look sad? Let’s cheer them up with some cool water! Preschooler’s are also learning to follow rules, so don’t be afraid to set helpful garden rules, such as putting all tools back where they belong, keeping feet off green things, and washing hands when you’re done.
“But why, Mommy? WHY??” Sound familiar? Preschoolers are moving beyond egocentricity – the tendency to think only of their own feelings and needs. Now beginning to notice the world around them, preschoolers love to ask questions. Support this natural curiosity, which will serve them well throughout life, by presenting new and interesting opportunities to learn. Try posing questions yourself: “Hey, I wonder why this plant grows tall, and this plant spreads out along the ground? What do you think?” Preschoolers are learning to count, usually up to five or ten. Practice counting flowers, fruits, leaves, and plants. Figure out which plant has more. Preschoolers can also follow three-part commands, so challenge your little gardener by stringing directions together up to three steps, such as, “Time to garden! Put on your shoes, get your gardening kit, and meet me by the tomatoes.”
Wishing you years of happy memories and engaged learning in your family garden!
Want to read more fun and informative articles? Join us at https://vividgro.com/lab/