You know that physical activity is absolutely essential to your child’s physical health and mental development. You know that extracurricular after school programs for kids are vital in fostering personal passions and skills. And you know that spending time in nature is essential for children. Why is it, then, that so few children are active in farming and agriculture, especially when it comes to after school programs for kids?
The benefits of agriculture-based after school programs for kids are broad, deep, and unsurpassably significant. At Gingerhill, we believe that farming makes an incredibly positive contribution to childhood development. That’s why we offer after-school farming activities for kids and family farm tours! Read on to learn more about why your child should practice farming.
Hard Work and Team Work
Farming is hard work! While a lot of farm work, like shoveling, weeding, and building, is physically demanding, farming can be psychologically demanding as well. After school programs for kids that incorporate farming thus build both physical and mental strength.
Good farming requires a lot of thinking and attention. One must remember to water at regular intervals, be mindful of spacing, anticipate the future needs of plants and animals, track weather patterns, and more. Thus, farming not only teaches children the value of working hard; it also teaches children the value of working well—that is, working with forethought, attention to detail, and compassion for the natural environment.
Farming typically demands teamwork. At Gingerhill, we gather together on Mondays to work on larger projects that can’t be completed between just a few people. We also host midday and after school programs for kids to join us in our projects. When children have a chance to collaborate in the natural environment, they learn how to work in teams. By extension, children develop strong communication and negotiation skills. They learn how to adapt to the group dynamic, alternating between leadership roles, following roles, and independent work. Working outdoors, in particular, is a powerful way to promote both verbal and intuitive communication.
Patience and Respect
While farming requires grit and hard work, it also requires gentleness and patience. When children have the opportunity to practice farming, especially when part of after school programs for kids, they learn how to work hard and adapt; yet they also develop a softer, more attentive side.
Caring for animals requires attention, compassion, and intuition. When children have the chance to care for animals, they witness for themselves the beauty and fragility of life. They learn how to be responsible and dependable for the sake of others, lending to a sense of selflessness and dependability. They also have to grapple with poor behavior, messes, and mishaps on the part of the animal, instilling patience.
Caring for plant life, too, nurtures the sensitive sides of children. Cultivation teaches children that all plants are living, breathing creatures. They, too, require love and gentle care. Inattentiveness on the part of the child can compromise the life of plants. Thus, when children care for plants, they develop a sense of their role in the life cycle.
In caring for plants and animals, children develop an appreciation and respect for other life forms. They come to understand the principles of mutual sustenance and to revere death as an element of the life cycle. Children who grow up on farms tend to be more mindful consumers, too, because they understand the work that goes into producing meat and produce for food, having beheld the cycle of life from planet to plate.
Physical and Mental Capacity
Children who regularly work outside in after school programs for kids exceed their peers in physical capacity. Farming requires the refinement of both fine and gross motor skills to an extent that cant be taught in an hour on the soccer field or in the school’s gym. It requires not only the strength to yield heavy tools, but also the flexibility to reach and bend over. Additionally, farming requires the coordination of multiple muscle groups, producing benefits that are both physical and cognitive.
Farming can instill in children awareness of their surroundings and a concern for safety. When you work on a farm, you have to be constantly attentive; you can’t be stepping on plants, neglecting the needs of animals, or using heavy tools improperly. The sense of awareness children develop on farms can be beneficial in all areas of life, from sports and school to interpersonal relationships.
When your work is highly affected by weather patterns and natural events, you develop strong problem solving skills. Children who work on farms are tasked with creating innovative solutions to unprecedented problems. Doing so, in turn, fosters ingenuity in other areas, be it intellectually (engineering or science) or creative (dance, art, or writing). Because most farms are operating on small budgets, children learn how to fix and refashion things and, in general, to live modestly and sustainably.
Working outside is also wonderfully beneficial for the mind. A regular supply of Vitamin D from the sun prevents depression. Regular movement produces endorphins and increases blood flow to the brain, improving mood, energy levels, and concentration.
Sense of Purpose
Farming has a positive impact on identity formation, especially in young children. Children whose experiences are limited to the home and the classroom grow up conceiving of themselves as passive subjects of external powers. Children that grow up on farms, however, develop a sense of personal responsibility. They understand the intrinsic value of their work by observing the tangible benefits it yields for plants and animals. They also come to understand themselves not as a passive unit, but as an active, impactful member of a community of life. In developing feelings of pride, responsibility, and ownership, children experience higher self-confidence and feel that their time and work is intrinsically valuable instead of a means to an end.
Farming may also contribute to a child’s moral and ideational development. In caring for life, providing food for the family, and learning about the lifecycle, children cultivate personal philosophies, moral frameworks, and passions that guide them to conscientious, ethical action in the world. Children who grow up on farms tend to see the world through an environmental lens; that is, they understand their own actions in relation to the planet instead of devolving into egocentricity.
Farming typically occurs in a community or family setting, as it takes many hands to keep a farm going. Kids who are active on farms thus develop trust and value in family, community, and human relationships.