Allotment gardening in schools encourages children and adults to go outside and get grubby by growing their own groceries.
Every summer, the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardening (NSALG) holds a campaign which certainly deserves to make its way into schools! It is NSALG’s aim to ensure everyone always has access to a safe, social place where they can grow their own produce. This is an initiative we would love to see spread far and wide.
Children’s allotment gardening is highly beneficial, and would be right at home in schools across the UK. Allotments are the perfect way to encourage younger children to lead a healthier lifestyle, allowing them to grow healthy foods and also engage in extra physical activity!
Here at Hand Made Places we want to carry on spreading the word about the benefits of allotment gardening in schools; we must encourage more children to take an interest in this fantastic hobby.
Why Support Allotment Gardening for Children?
As it is centred on the act of growing your own produce, allotment gardening has many health and wellbeing benefits for both children and adults.
Children will often choose an unhealthy snack over a healthier treat such as an apple or some carrot sticks. However, when they have grown the produce themselves they are much more likely to pick the healthier treat. They feel they have achieved something, and they want to celebrate that fact.
When a child tries growing their own food from scratch,
it’s much more enticing than a shop-bought snack!
This is relevant more than ever in today’s society where children indulge in unhealthy snacks too often; a campaign released by Change4Life in 2018 targeted this exact issue. They suggested that, when looking for “packaged” snacks, aim for a maximum of 100 calories in each one, and to not exceed two per day.
What better way to take on these guidelines than by snacking on home-grown, healthy vegetables? Swapping unhealthy snacks for the ‘fruits’ of their labour makes it more likely that children will actively choose the nutritious route. This, in turn, means they won’t have the negative emotions associated with denying themselves something; it’s much better for their mental wellbeing when this is their own choice.
It’s not just the edible produce of a children’s allotment which is beneficial…
Children’s allotment gardening is also a great way to encourage more physical activity in schools. In addition to improving fine motor skills, it’s also a more major physical exercise.
Introduce more activity into a child’s life without them even realising…
…they’ll stay active and engaged…
…all whilst getting grubby and enjoying the benefits of sensory play!
By engaging in just 30 minutes of gardening you can burn up to 150 calories! Now, little ones don’t need to focus on burning calories, however this does give an indication of the cardiovascular benefits it offers. Children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, therefore making allotment gardening perfect for schools.
School Allotment Gardening and Children’s Mental Health
Allotment gardening is also an exercise in patience, responsibility and commitment. You could say that it’s as good for the mind as it is for the body!
Self esteem: As children see their efforts come to life, the sense of achievement improves their self esteem. You’d be surprised how satisfying it can be to succeed at something traditionally reserved for grownups!
Relaxation: A screen-centric world doesn’t offer much time to work on a highly sensory activity in the fresh air. The gift of gardening is, for schools, a perfect opportunity to leave the stresses of the classroom and improve everyone’s mood.
Cognitive function: The regularity of allotment gardening means children can hone their mental agility in alternative ways to those normally offered in schools. This can have a positive effect on memory and focus.
A chance to talk: It is well reported that ‘heavy’ or ‘difficult’ conversations are easier when you are occupied or not sitting face-to-face. As such, an activity such as gardening is perfect for talking through any worries a child might have; it’s a low pressure situation that isn’t too mentally taxing.
To find out more about the personal benefits of gardening, see this inspiring article & infographic, created by experts in outdoor living.
On top of all of the health and wellbeing benefits of children’s allotment gardening, it’s also a great way to encourage young people to connect with their environment. Having an allotment provides a ‘green’ haven, even in the most urban of areas.
By creating a children’s allotment in schools with limited green space, you also provide gardening areas in which wildlife can thrive. This does wonders for the local environment!
Wildlife is vital; flying insects such as bees help to pollinate plants, contributing to the growth of many fruits and vegetables. That’s why supporting this life cycle is vital to the continuation of agriculture across the entire world.
So why not do your bit? Help to encourage wildlife to flourish by bringing allotment gardening to schools; children will see the benefits for decades to come!
Top Tips on Supporting Allotment Gardening for School Children
Many allotments have long waiting lists. However, this needn’t put you off! You can create a children’s allotment in a back yard or a school playground.
Top tip: For colourful, easy-to-grow veg, opt for carrots and peas in a chunky planter. A raised bed will minimise the risk of seedlings trampled through eager play, and also makes it more wheelchair accessible.
At Hand Made Places we have a range of FSC® (FSC-C122338) wooden plantersto inspire children to grow their groceries. The Vegetable Planter is large and robust with four clear sections, and colourful signs for easy identification.
The Window Planteris another great option, this time allowing children to actually see what’s going on beneath the soil. This makes it perfect for root vegetables like onions or parsnips.
Top tip: Tie allotment gardening into elements of the school day by prompting children to read instructions, count seeds, measure the distance, and explore life cycles.
The use of your planter needn’t be restricted to lessons. For some schools, a planter is a significant investment and they’ll want to get the most out of their playground equipment. As such, you could also consider choosing a planter with an unusual shape. For example, a Swanor a Dragon would also encourage children to engage in imaginative play.
Top tip: Enhance your allotment gardening even further with a school compost and minibeast area. This is a great learning opportunity which also develops responsibility.
For more information about the benefits of school gardening, and ways to get involved, take a look at our article, ‘Growing Together‘.
Whether schools choose allotment gardening or more general ‘green’ activities, they’ll be giving children their own slice of the environment to care about… Here at Hand Made Places, we think that’s amazing!
Looking to create a bespoke allotment for children to suit your budget? Contact our design team using the form below.
If you know someone who would find this article useful, share it and let us know on social media!