Many adults can attest to the positive effects of gardening on their lives. Gardening is actually good, gentle exercise, that reduces stress, and gives a feeling of satisfaction as hard work pays off in healthy, colorful ways.
But more and more research is starting to show that children can also benefit from horticulture.
It seems kind of countercultural in a society where everyone believes children need to be on the go all the time and, if they’re not doing that, they’re stuck behind a desk in classes or doing homework, or on their way to a part-time job or hockey or baseball or basketball ...
Definition of Horticultural Therapy
Horticultural therapy is defined as using plants, planting and plant-care activities to improve people’s social, educational, psychological and physical well-being. Horticulture was actually designated as an official therapy about 40 years ago.
How Horticultural Therapy Benefits Children
Horticultural therapy is starting to be implemented in many schools and communities because people have recognized how the healing effects of gardening can help children of all ages and levels of abilities.
It’s been shown to have a profound positive effect on children on the autism spectrum, as well.
Horticulturalists believe that gardening works by providing:
• A chance to be a caregiver
• Enhancement of self-image and worth
• Development of their ability to accomplish something
• A relaxing environment
• Decrease in symptoms of depression
• Decrease in aggressive or angry feelings
• Opportunities for problem solving
• Opportunities to work as a group or individually
Gardening Blossoming Across the Country
The benefits of gardening have been seen since the days of Ancient Egypt. In the 1600s, it was common for patients who couldn’t pay for medical treatment to turn to gardening to earn extra money.
Doctors of the time noticed a difference between these patients and those who didn’t garden. Patients who gardened demonstrated faster recovery times and generally greater overall well-being than their non-gardening counterparts.
Virginia Bush, Children’s Garden Coordinator of Trillium Family Services, Parry Center for Children in Oregon says, “We often see miracles occur in children’s lives that are instrumental in their healing process in large part because of their work in their own personalized garden bed.”1
“Richard Mattson, a professor in Kansas State University’s horticulture, forestry and recreation resources department, says horticultural therapy can provide children with stress reduction, exercise, nurturing skills and a host of other benefits. Horticultural therapy is an interdisciplinary approach to healing that integrates social and behavioral sciences and horticulture. This means that the people/plant relationships developed through gardening can improve ailments ranging from depression and high blood pressure to chronic pain.” 2
When we see all these anti-anxiety, anti-aggression and healing benefits of gardening, it’s no wonder that many schools are now incorporating horticultural activities in their curriculum.
If your school doesn’t have one yet, look to start a community garden or talk to your principal or teacher about starting regular field trips for children to a gardening center or nursery.
No one is still quite sure how it works, but centuries have shown that it does.
1) What is Horticultural Therapy? KidsGrowGreen.com. Web. Accessed: Jan 25, 2015.
2) Horticultural therapy: Using a green thumb to grow healthy kids. Web. Accessed: Jan 25, 2015.
3) Horticulture Therapy for People with Autism. By Isaacson, Ashley. Web. Accessed: Jan 25, 2015.
Reviewed January 27, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith