In our recent article titled “When Can Kids Start Gardening?” (which is today, by the way) we discussed the physical fitness development element of the activity. It’s absolutely true that gardening will help your children build core strength and foster an internal musculoskeletal environment that will do their bodies good for decades to come. And while they’re at an age where their muscles, joints, and ligaments are enviably springy and spry, it’s a good idea to prepare their bodies before they start digging, each and every time. In addition to the direct and tangible physical benefits, it gets them into the habit of being more mindful about everything they do and helps them understand the mind-body connection that we often don’t consider until we’re older. Give them a head start on gardening (and life) by incorporating these pre-gardening exercises into their routine.
3 Types of Exercises to Get Your Kids in the Habit of Doing Before Working in Their Backyard, Community, and School Gardens
As alluded to above, there are benefits in strengthening the mind-body connection prior to gardening. Call it meditation if you like, but that is just a semantic. It’s really about putting your child into a naturally relaxed state to reduce cortisol levels (the stress hormone) that may precede a task that is important to them. Have your children sit quietly, close their eyes, and envision working in the garden at a calm and steady pace, moving with Mother Nature’s ebb and flow to complete tasks (digging, tilling, planting, watering, etc.). In doing so for about 5 minutes they will be ready to move into the physical realm with a greater sense of calm and purpose.
“Meditation can be beneficial because it allows us to teach our kids a system that allows them to move more methodically and a little bit more carefully through their thoughts and through the world […] Meditation helps children be less reactive to their emotions and things that are going on around them.” (Cleveland Clinic)
We take breathing for granted. Let’s ensure that our kids don’t do the same, especially when they prepare to head outdoors into the garden environment. There are a number of benefits to performing breathing exercises before children embark on the activity, including the following:
- Reduced feelings of stress, anxiety, and tension
- Stabilized blood pressure
- Strengthened immunity
- Increased energy levels
Have your kid/s take a deep breath in through their nose so that they fill their lungs with air downwards towards the belly, then have them breathe out slowly through their mouth. Reference this reputable resource for breathing exercises for kids so that you can mix it up prior to gardening sessions.
*Note, you may combine this with their mind-body connection exercise above, once they become accustomed to calming their minds quickly on their own.
Physical Stretches and Exercises
OK, we can now get to the one item that you were probably looking for; pre-gardening exercises that require movements and stretches. To begin with, it’s important to identify the primary chronic injuries that people sustain while gardening. Again, your children are far less vulnerable to any form of musculoskeletal concern given their age, but it’s good for them to get into the habit of being body-ready today so that they carry over the practice into their teenage years and eventually adulthood. The most common chronic injuries associated with gardening include the following:
- Rotator cuff (shoulder) pain
- Hand and wrist pain
- Lower back pain
Consequently, exercises and stretches should consider the parts of the body most stressed by gardening. We’ll leave this part to the experts, sharing popular videos that walk your kids through the motions.
Shoulder movements for kids:
Hand and wrist movements for kids:
Lower back movements for kids:
That’s it! Have your kids follow the advice above and they’ll be fully prepared for a long, happy, and healthy life in the garden. Stay tuned for more advice on gardening for kids by bookmarking the Plant a Seed & See What Grows blog.