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Gardening with Young Children

BOG member Beatrys Lockie has just completed a book based on her experiences of introducing young children to gardening and nature at large. Beatrys was introduced to gardening by her grandfather and, after retiring as a teacher at a Steiner school, led Kindergartens in various locations in south-east Scotland. This is what she has to say about her book and its background:

This book is meant to be used by anyone who plays, works with and guides children between the ages of three and seven: Kindergarten teachers, playgroup leaders, parents and childminders.

One does not usually associate three year olds with gardening and yet, why not? Is this not the age when they cannot help but imitate, when they feel happiest when active and when they are wide open to ideas properly presented? “Properly presented” is the crux of the matter, because the small child’s consciousness is very different from that of an adult. The child experiences no borderline between their own being and the outside world around them. Just watch and listen to a three-year-old speaking to a lamb, puppy or kitten. It is at one with the animal and treats it as though it were part of itself, or at least an equal. It may even speak to it in baby language.

The small child lives in a world of pictures and images. Ideas can only properly be accepted by the child if you make them appeal to the child’s feeling; and this is done by presenting the idea through a story which conjures up images which go deep into the child’s being.

We say that it feeds the child’s soul.

For this reason those who deal with small children must always strive to create these pictures anew for them so that they may enter into the mood rather than just the facts of the story. If you doubt the force of stories on children, just watch them as an experienced story-teller gets to work. I can remember many instances of even difficult children being captivated by a story well told. One in particular, nicknamed “hell-on-wheels” by the local community was brought to silent, wide-eyed awe as the story progressed. Every story begins with a ritual: first the candle is lit, then a little bell is rung and finally: “Can I hear a pin drop? Now we can begin.”

Many grown-ups, by contrast, live in a world of the intellect, of cause and effect and of logic. This is foreign territory for a small child. The child can make little of this approach; it makes no lasting impression and, worst of all, a child quickly becomes bored. A child fed nothing but intellectual fodder can later become emotionally stunted. An intellectual adult often finds it more difficult to produce this mood than does a more intuitive person. But we must all try. Otherwise, what we give to children are stones instead of bread.

In order to help with this I have, here and there, in the text, suggested how one might put an idea across to a small child, remembering the nature of the child’s mind. This is not meant to be talking down to the adult reader or to the child, but rather an attempt to present ideas in a way that fits the stage of mental and emotional development of the child. The child has a natural sense of wonder. It is up to us to cultivate and nurture this sense by showing children how to hold things carefully, especially living things, answer their questions in an imaginative, friendly and open way, show them our awe of Nature, talk to plants and embrace trees.

Let them feel gratitude for all weathers, not just those that suit us and teach them to love everything. This is an awesome responsibility because small children soak up all that comes their way, be it good, bad or indifferent. We have to try always to convey the good, the wholesome, the caring and the moral.

This is why there are stories, poems and soup in this gardening book.

Beatrys Lockie

Summer 2006