For those of us who live in parts of the world with seasons, there are really only a few months out of the year where you can go outside and plant a garden… and if you like to plant flowers and vegetables then it’s also your best chance to have your children learn about plants, dirt and gardening!
Children with visual impairments need the opportunity to get their hands into as many different projects as possible and gardening has the added benefit of being one of those extremely “hands on” activities.
So let’s all get outside and get our hands dirty!
What Blind Kids Can Learn in the Garden
Being outdoors listening to the birds and feeling the sunshine are benefit enough for a lot of kids. Also, feeling like they are part of a larger family project can give many kids a boost of confidence.
But there are other learning opportunities you might want to focus on in your garden…
- Learn About Plants: Talk to your child about how plants grow and what they need to grow. It may seem silly, but we read Sesame Street Library: In the Garden to Ivan as a way to talk about plants. The book explains that seeds need dirt, water and sun to grow. Yeah, it’s pretty simple, but it gets the point across and the book even plays sounds! This was a fun and silly way to introduce the concept of gardening to our son.
- Learn About Clean & Dirty: It’s inevitable that you’ll get dirty in the garden… and that’s a good thing! Many kids who are blind dislike getting their hands dirty or wearing gloves, so here’s your chance to talk about clean versus dirty or feel and try on gardening gloves—and to do it all in a fun environment! If your child hates the feel of dirt, see if you can convince them to touch the dirt with one finger, really fast. That’s it! And follow up with lots of praise. Next time, try two fingers or a pinch of dirt. Work your way up while you’re playing and having fun!
- Learn About Wet & Dry: Elmo taught us that plants need water to grow, so I guess we’d better get out the hose! You can teach your child how to turn on the water and how to make sure the plants get enough water. If your child is sensitive to the feeling of getting wet (and a lot of children are!) then you have another opportunity to play with water in a fun and relaxed environment.
- Learn About Numbers: We do a lot of counting in our garden. How many green beans should we plant in a row? Let’s count the seeds. How many strawberries are growing on this plant? Let’s find out! And our favorite… how many cherry tomatoes can we eat before we go in the house? Yum! This is a fun way to make counting real and tangible, which can make a big difference for children who are visually impaired.
- Learn About Healthy Eating: Probably the most important thing we’re teaching our children in the garden is the importance of eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Flowers are fun to plant too, but when you grow your own tomato or blueberry plant your child may be more excited to eat from them. You could plant a collection of veggies that would work well in one pot, like tomatoes, basil and zucchini… and then cook up some delicious tomato sauce for your spaghetti! Many blind kids are picky eaters who don’t want to try new foods, so this may be a way to get your child to experiment with new flavors!
Whatever you decide to plant, keep the lessons laid back and easy. The best way to learn in the garden is to have fun!