Spring is an uplifting time of year as the days become longer and warmer and the natural world brings a wonderful rainbow of colour. People are attracted to outside spaces, where one is surrounded by beautiful flora and fauna, and what better activity to do outside, than gardening?

Fundamental life skills taught to children from an early age should ideally include the knowledge and understanding of how to ‘grow your own’ fruits, vegetables, and herbs, embracing the ideals of sustainability and being motivated to develop self-efficacy and caring for living things and the environment.  Adults help the children to learn about the life cycle of plants, flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables, and the animals that live among them, embracing nature pedagogy through first-hand, meaningful experiences, and reciprocal conversations as they connect with the natural world.


Gardening is a readily accessible experience for everybody from 0 to 100+ years. Babies benefit from the exploration of shapes, colours, and the multi-sensory experience of things brought to them to touch, see, hear, taste and smell. Children help to nurture living things through sowing, feeding and watering of plants, whereby a gift is also returned from nature, as the act of gardening and contact with micro-organisms strengthen their immune system. One such organism is Mycobacterium vaccae, known to trigger the release of serotonin in the brain – the happy hormone – through skin contact alone.


This, coupled with the fact that gardening is a predominantly outdoor activity means that exposure to sunlight and subsequent vitamin D synthesis works synergistically to improve overall mental and physical health and wellbeing. As children’s understanding of the world develops, gardening contributes to other learning experiences as children are introduced to words and new vocabulary as a source of information from instructions on packets to recipes and menus. They can use different methods to measure water and growth and to count and weigh their harvest, not to mention the development of critical thinking skills by noticing changes, sharing ideas and conversing together through sustained shared thinking.


At Acorn, we support children to learn these skills first-hand, including them in the process from choosing what to grow, finding the ideal location, preparing the ground, sowing and planting, and nurturing growth with collected rainwater. The outcome for the care and dedication to the plants is rewarded with the harvest, to have as a healthy snack or complement a balanced meal, and to create, as Claudine Schneider nicely puts it, a healthy ecology as the basis for a healthy economy.


We want children to thrive and reach their full potential, and a healthy diet is one that contributes to a healthy body and mind that will ease the journey for optimal lifelong learning and happiness. With so many food choices on offer, a lot of which are unhealthy and with busy working families, sometimes the quickest and easiest option for stress- free evenings. Sadly, this type of lifestyle can lead to unhealthy ones, as children opt for fast foods thus limiting their tastebuds from the plethora of tastes and textures available to them. With this in mind, it is imperative that we do all we can to expose children to a wide variety of smells and tastes, considering it can take between 10 to 15 tries of a food before they accept it. It is important to recognise the fundamental and influential role parents play in their children’s lives, so helping parents to adopt green practices and try new foods by sharing recipes, gardening ideas and experiences and ideas for home learning is always at the forefront of what we strive to achieve.


"The only way forward, if we are going improve the quality of the environment, is to get everybody involved" - Richard Rogers