Rest Time or Restoration Time?
Yesterday I listened to a talk by Lee from Urban Veggie Patch. I heard about how she found gardening and the restorative value that it held. I saw super impressive rainbow coloured corn too!
I left the talk thinking about going home and getting in the garden. I'm a nature lover. I love bushwalking, I love camping, I love watching birds, I love just being in nature. And I actually love gardening, but I'd forgotten that I did. In the busy-ness of life with children and a business and all the things, I had forgotten how calming gardening can be.
What does this have to do with early childhood?
Okay - stay with me! As I drove home thinking about gardening, I was reminded of my time in a service, where our afternoons were quite often spent in the garden with children. Led by Tash's enthusiasm, we planted seedlings, we nurtured, we harvested. We took note of the weather, we observed seasonal change. It was simultaneously exciting and calming.
Gardening - an alternative to rest time
When I first started at that service, rest time was a compulsory activity in the preschool room. 24 children spread out on beds, lights went out, music turned on and educators spent the next hour shooshing those who were a little restless and couldn't resist a chat or a sing. It was far from restful - it was exhausting.
Thankfully, with some reflection, we agreed that this was counter-productive. What was it we were really trying to achieve? We wanted children to relax, to rest their bodies, to restore their energy. And for some reason, we had thought that meant to sleep or at least be silent.
There were always some children who did indeed need a sleep, but for the vast majority of our 3-5year olds, sleeping during the day was not part of their plan, nor was it something that they needed.
Instead, we started looking for different ways to relax and restore. We tried yoga, we tried meditation stories, we tried slow experiences like weaving. And, we tried gardening. We propagated, we dug, we connected. GardenGate Magazine suggests that gardening has huge benefits for a our wellbeing, saying "working in the garden reduces cortisol levels (a chemical your body produces in response to stress) even more than reading a book."
Get your hands dirty
Haven't tried gardening before? Give it a go. Try some simple things first - a herb garden, pot some flowers, grow some tomatoes. Get some gardening magazines and books and learn with the children.
- Gloves for children and adults
- Watering cans (make sure you have a few - everyone likes this job!)
- Child sized gardening tools
- A notebook or diary to record what you plant and when
You might even have a parent, grandparent or community member who can come in and share their love of gardening
Other ideas for restoration
If you are thinking that the children in your care need restoration more than rest, here are some other things to try:
- Laying on the ground and watching the clouds
- Nature Walk
- Weaving or Beading
What have you tried that works for the children in your care? Let us know in the comments below