Tag Archive for: natural world

15 Benefits of Teaching Kids to Grow Food

Children, particularly the very young, absolutely love growing and tending to plants and seedlings.Children, particularly the very young, absolutely love growing and tending to plants and seedlings. It’s an absolutely fascinating activity for them and gives them a real sense of both wonder and achievement. Growing fruit, vegetables and herbs is even better, though! They get all the fun and benefits of the growing activity and they then get to eat the results! Growing food is fun and it also has many benefits for children — today we’ll take a look at some of them.

“In every gardener is a child who loves to play in the dirt. In every child is a gardener ready to grow.” (LeAura Alderson)

Children don’t need a garden or allotment to grow food. A patio, courtyard, balcony or windowsill will do, so long as plants have water, soil and light.

1. Growing Food is Educational

Growing food teaches children about life, the biology of plants and about where food comes.Growing herbs, vegetables and fruit is educational for children on many different levels, as we’ll see. It teaches children about life and the biology of plants. It also teaches children about where food comes from and what skills and care are needed in the process. They’ll learn so much while growing edible herbs, fruit and vegetables — and also learn about themselves in the process. Growing plants, herbs and produce also supports several areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum.

2. Children Learn New Skills Growing Food

“Growing food was the first activity that gave us enough prosperity to stay in one place, form complex social groups, tell our stories, and build our cities”

The quotation above, from Barbara Kingsolver, pretty much sums up the enormous positive impact that learning to grow food has had on the human race. And there’s no reason why the skills necessary to successfully grow food shouldn’t start in the very young. From preparing the soil, germinating and sprouting seeds, tending to seedlings and caring for plants as they grow, these are all great skills for children to learn along the way.

3. Growing Food Helps Children Appreciate Nature

“Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden.” (Robert Brault)

Growing food allows children to witness, first hand, the miracle of life as living things flourish and bloom.Growing food allows children to witness, first hand, the miracle of life and to see how tending and caring for a living thing allows it to flourish and bloom. It’ll give children a real sense of wonder about nature and life itself.

4. Growing Food Teaches ‘Green’ Values

“It’s more than just high quality food for the family table; it’s growing the food in a way that does not harm the environment.” (Robert Patterson)

Growing food is also more likely to give children a long-term sense of the importance of nature, the natural world and about caring for the environment. Studies have shown that children who are introduced to activities involving nature at a young age are more likely to lead ‘greener’ lifestyles — even into adulthood.

5. Home-Grown Food is Healthy

Teaching children to learn how to grow plants, fruit, herbs and vegetables is also likely to lead to long-term healthier lifestyles. As the website FoodRevolution.org puts it:

“Growing your own food may be one of the most powerful steps you can take for the health of yourself, your family, and your planet.”

6. Children Learn to Appreciate Trial & Error

Learning from mistakes is an important skill to learn. Indeed, many of the world’s most successful business owners say they would never be where they are today had they not made mistakes — and learnt from them — along the way. It’s therefore important that children come to realise that small failures are all part of longer-term success, so long as they learn from the mistakes.

Growing food can save the household money!7. Growing Food Can Save Money

“Growing your own food is like printing your own money.” (Ron Finley)

A lovely by-product of children growing herbs, vegetables or fruit is that it can save the household money. That’s totally feasible, particularly when children’s food-growing skills have been well and truly honed.

8. Children Can Eat What They Have Grown

“Children who grow what they eat will often eat what they grow.”

As well as enjoying the whole food-growing activity and learning from it, children and their families can enjoy eating the result!That quote is so true. As well as enjoying the whole food-growing activity and learning from it, of course the result is something that children – and perhaps the whole family – can eat! It’s a win-win from every perspective.

9. Eating Home-Grown Food Can Make Children Try Different Things

“If kids grow kale, kids eat kale. If they grow tomatoes, they eat tomatoes. But when none of this is presented to them, if they’re not shown how food affects the mind and the body, they blindly eat whatever you put in front of them.

Ron Finley’s quotation above explains it very well. If a child grows something edible, it’s almost a given that they will eat the produce — or at the very least try it. Encouraging them to grow their own edible produce is a great way to make them more interested in eating healthier things like fruit and vegetables etc. It may even have the knock-on effect of making them more likely to try cooking and food preparation — yet more new skills!

10. Growing Food at Home Helps to Make Bonds

Growing herbs, vegetables, fruit and any plant will give children a real sense of wonder about nature and life itself.Children will inevitably ask questions and ask for guidance and help when they first start their food-growing activities. Parents or guardians will probably enjoy the task too and it’s one of those activities that’s bound to be a great joint effort. As such, this partnership can be a great way to bond.

11. Growing Food Gets Children Away from Electronic Screens

Such a natural activity is also a wonderful antidote to backlit screens, TVs, mobile devices and electronic games. It’s like going back to basics in some ways, but in others it will teach children so much more by getting ‘hands on’ with real-life, useful activities.

12. Children Learn to Become More Responsible

After all, caring for another living entity requires their attention, a responsibility and even empathy to ensure the wellbeing of the little plants and seedlings. These are great lessons and good skills to encourage.

13. Children Learn the Importance of Patience

Growing plants from seed or cuttings requires effort and patience and that's a great virtue to teach young children.In this day and age, everything seems to be more rushed than ever and there could even be a tendency towards instant gratification with little effort (from TV programmes, videos and electronic games, for example). Growing plants from seed or cuttings requires effort and patience and that’s a great virtue to teach young children. They need to understand that ‘good things come to those who wait’.

14. Home-Grown Food Tastes Better!

Food really does taste better, more often than not, when it’s home-grown. Tastier food, particularly the natural, healthy kind, is never a bad thing!

15. Growing Food is a Fun, Entertaining Activity for Kids

That’s important in itself. Children love growing food and plants! It brings them all these benefits and more but is also a very entertaining activity. It’s also a much more worthwhile one than many others. Teaching children to grow food is a win-win for everyone — children, families and the planet.

“By the process of directly working in harmony with nature, we do the one thing most essential to change the world — we change ourselves.” (Jules Dervaes)

A Wonderful Nursery & Pre-School in Birmingham, Near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

Leaps & Bounds nursery & pre-school is in Edgbaston, Birmingham B16, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

Children grow plants and herbs at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery.Children are encouraged to take part in growing plants, including herbs, at Leaps & Bounds. We are also an outstanding Forest School, so children get ample exposure to nature and all the benefits of the natural world. If you are looking for a good childcare nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham, or high quality pre-schools or nurseries near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick, please get in touch — we’d be happy to show you and your child around the setting and to answer any questions that you might have. You can also simply apply for a childcare place below …

Next Time …

In our next post, we develop this topic further by taking a look at some exciting food growing activities that children can undertake at home. Also don’t miss our subsequent article about growing microgreens — a fun, nutritious activity for under-fives.

Forest School - A Complete Guide

An under-five enjoying a Forest SchoolLeaps & Bounds Day Nursery offers children regular Forest School sessions as part of its curriculum. But, what exactly does ‘Forest School’ mean? In this article, we set out to explain what ‘Forest School’ is, what it stands for and what you and your children can expect from it. Our aim, in fact, is to tell you pretty much everything you need to know, and more.

Forest School

The “Forest School” ethos is described by the Forest School Association (‘FSA’) as:

“An inspirational process that offers children, young people and adults regular opportunities to achieve, develop confidence and self esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a local woodland environment.”

Obviously, as a nursery and pre-school, we’ll slant this guide towards what it means to our early years age groups, however the same ethos and principles apply to all ages catered for within what we call Forest School.

History & roots

Fun with shelters at Forest SchoolThe Forest School approach has its roots in outdoor learning philosophies going back as far as the 19th Century. If you take a look, these influences alone will tell you a huge amount about what the Forest School approach stands for. They include:

  • Robert Baden Powell, founder of the Worldwide Scout Movement;
  • Leslie Paul, founder of The Woodcraft Folk;
  • Kurt Hahn, founder of Gordonstoun (where Prince Charles was partly educated), with its massive emphasis on outdoor education;
  • Susan Sutherland Isaacs, the renowned educational psychologist who, along with promoting the nursery school movement, emphasised the importance of learning through play and exploration in tandem with guidance from parents and adults;
  • The McMillan sisters, who were nursery school pioneers and set up The Open-Air Nursery School & Training Centre in 1914. They also believed that children learned best through exploration.

“Friluftsliv”

Educational fun in the outdoorsHowever, the biggest influence on the formation of Forest School came in 1993, when Bridgewater College nursery staff studied Denmark’s ‘friluftsliv’ (outdoors) approach to early years education. This outdoor, child-centred, play-based education system lay at the core of Scandinavia’s early years educational success and was enormously influential on those visiting for the study. After returning to Somerset, the nursery staff founded ‘Forest School’.

Just two years later, Bridgewater College began to offer a ‘B Tech in Forest School’. This course and qualification was offered to other early years practitioners, many of whom were already enthusiastic proponents of outdoor teaching and learning. In this way, Forest School soon spread to other UK early years and education settings. Leaps and Bounds Day Nursery in Edgbaston (Birmingham) is one of them, presently having at least three of its own, fully-trained, Forest School leaders at any given time.

Learn more about the history of Forest School here.

Forest School today

Today, Forest School has its own association, the FSA, which oversees the work of practitioners and applies its philosophy and guiding principles to all Forest School settings around the UK. Those guiding principles include a framework of 6 key areas:Back to nature at Forest School

1. Regular sessions are attended outdoors, in the natural world, over the long term (not just occasional visits). The sessions are well structured and allow learning to progress and build upon itself as time goes by. There are usually sessions at least once every other week. Where practicable, they also occur within all four seasons.

2. The Forest School curriculum is best suited to woodlands or, in the absence of suitable local woodland, natural outdoor areas with, ideally, at least some trees. The aim is for a relationship to develop between the individuals and the natural world. Those learning are encouraged to explore and discover within the outdoor space. While access to woodland is preferred, it’s not essential. Indeed, it’s possible for urban early years settings to offer Forest School sessions from places like school grounds. However, in that scenario, practitioners may need to ‘import’ some natural learning materials into the setting (e.g. sticks, logs etc.) and make certain other provisions, as appropriate.

It’s also important that, wherever the Forest School sessions are held, any potential ecological impact will be closely monitored and mitigated.

3. It is a holistic approach, aiming at the development of the ‘whole’ person. This includes the fostering of traits like resilience, confidence, independence and creativity while also developing physical, emotional, social, linguistic and spiritual aspects.

4. Together with the Forest School practitioner, the learners will assess potential risks and benefits of activities pursued, as appropriate. The level of involvement of children in the risk/benefit assessment will depend upon their age and developmental stage.

Forest School5. Forest Schools require the practitioners leading sessions to be qualified to at least Level 3 accreditation. They also need to maintain and further develop their professional learning (as reflective practitioners, they are actually learners too). Each will have undergone the relevant checks for working alongside children, of course. They will also hold an up-to-date first aid qualification that includes paediatric and outdoor elements as appropriate.

6. The Forest School approach to teaching methodology is one that primarily focuses on the needs and interests of the individual who is learning. It is also, however, undertaken with a view to the experience being part of wider group undertaking, where a community is built around learning and development within the natural environment. Play is a big part of the learning, as is the building in of choice, personal preference and natural disposition. An element of reflection is also built into Forest School sessions so as to continuously appraise the progress of learning and development. Achievements are celebrated and observations are fed into the ‘scaffolding’ that makes up the longer-term plan for each individual.

Life-Long positive benefits

It’s important to understand that Forest School is an ‘ethos’ rather than a ‘destination’. Nursery schools and pre-schools therefore do not ‘become a Forest School’ as such. However, they provide Forest School programmes as part of their overall curriculum.

‘Forest School is a feeling you can’t put into words.’ (Tonicha, early years Forest School student)

Those attending can benefit from life-long positive effects that Forest School can bring them. On a personal note, as someone who was introduced to something very similar when I was a child, I can absolutely vouch for that statement. Having been introduced to The Great Outdoors from a young age, I can honestly say that it’s where I am happiest, decades on. It’s healthy — on so many physical and spiritual levels.

Being closer to the natural world teaches us so much about nature and existence — and also a huge amount about ourselves. It gives us a profound perspective on the world, which permeates into knowledge and wisdom relating to so many different aspects of life as a whole. That even sometimes includes areas that are, at least on the face of it, not even directly related to nature.

‘I don’t have ADHD when I`m out in the woods.’ (David, Forest School student)

The magic of the outdoorsFor young children, Forest School can also be something that helps them to experience regular successes, also often helping them to feel more valued and equal. It’s a fantastic ‘leveller’ and a great conduit for developing positive relationships with others, irrespective of things like background, ability and physical or mental challenges etc. In fact, Forest School can often give supposedly ‘challenging’ or ‘challenged’ children somewhere to absolutely flourish. It can bring formerly reserved individuals out of their shells and give them self-confidence and somewhere to have a voice. It can give others somewhere to feel more free … and free to be themselves. Some will realise they have skills they didn’t even know they had; leadership or critical thinking skills, for example.

More than anything though, Forest School is fantastic fun and somewhere that social bonds, social skills and life skills are developed absolutely naturally. It’s where learning, exploration, creativity and imagination combine with often remarkable results. As such, Forest School is priceless, when you think about it.

A Forest School place for your child in Birmingham

If you are interested in a Forest School place for your child in the Birmingham area, Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery can help. Our nursery/pre-school in Edgbaston offers Forest Schooling in the B16 postcode, so is ideal for those looking for Forest Schools near Birmingham, Egbaston, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood and Smethwick. Call 0121 246 4922 or contact us here for more details and we’ll be delighted to help.