Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Gardening is child's play

I've a column in Fairfax's 'Life & Style' today, 'Gardening is child's play'.

I'm sketching some of the benefits of gardens and gardening, for kids. Here's a taste:
Gardens can also be introductions to risk. By definition, gardens are enclosed or cordoned off - there is always a boundary of some sort, if only a ditch or a line of stones. 
Because of this, they are relatively safe. But the 'relatively' is important, because the natural outdoors are not completely sterile. In the dirt, there are spiders and bull-ants. In the trees and flowers there are thorns, rough bark, heights to fall from. 
And then there is the climate itself: baking sun, chilling winds, saturating rain. The garden is an opportunity for our kids to take risks climbing the crepe myrtle or digging in the sandy dirt, but all within a secure area. 
This is important, because psychological development requires challenges, and the fears that go with them. The point is not to scare children witless, but to allow them to independently confront what's uncomfortable, frightening or simply unexpected; to learn, not only physical skills, but mental ones: mental habits of courage, consistency and caution.

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