The Benefits of Gardening

Gardening is a fantastic activity that can benefit children of all ages. Whether it is growing herbs, vegetables or flowers, getting children involved in gardening provides a range of physical, mental, and emotional advantages. In this blog post, we will explore why gardening is such an excellent activity for toddlers, young children, and teenagers and give nannies some ideas for getting started with gardening

Benefits of Gardening for Toddlers

The benefits of Gardening

Gardening can be an enjoyable and rewarding activity for toddlers, providing numerous health and developmental benefits, including:

Sensory Development

Gardening provides children with an opportunity to experience different textures, smells, tastes, and sounds from the natural environment. For example, children can be encouraged to feel the soil in their hands, or taste produce they have grown. Rich, sensory experiences in the early years enhance children’s emotional and cognitive development.

Fine Motor Skills: 

Gardening involves a range of small, delicate movements, which are essential for fine motor skill development. These movements encourage the development of hand-eye coordination and dexterity and all of these things help to build up the skills that children will later need for writing.

Cognitive Development

Gardening offers numerous creative and problem-solving opportunities that help toddlers to develop their cognitive abilities, such as creativity, attention to detail, and problem-solving. For example, children can be encouraged to observe the ways that plants grow, or that the garden changes as the seasons progress and offer ideas about how and why this might happen

Curiosity and Exploration: 

Toddlers are naturally curious and often love to explore. Gardening encourages children to explore and learn about new things while engaging their sense of curiosity and wonder.

Benefits of Gardening for Young Children

Springtime Activities for Young Children. Gardening

Gardening also offers plenty of physical and mental benefits to young children. Here are some of these benefits:

Environmental Awareness: 

Gardening provides an opportunity to teach young children about the environment and the importance of preserving natural resources. It also helps them develop an appreciation for the ecosystem and the role of plants in our lives.

Responsibility and Independence: 

Gardening offers a chance to teach young children responsibility and independence. Plant care, watering, and weeding can all be enjoyable tasks that teach children to take ownership of tasks and develop a sense of responsibility, along with recognising the consequences of not fulfilling responsibilities if plants fail to grow or thrive!

Nutritional Awareness: 

Gardening is a fantastic way to teach young children about the importance of healthy eating habits in a practical and meaningful way. They can learn about the nutritional value of plants and the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables, which can have a lasting impact on their health choices.


Gardening is a great activity for children to do in groups, which can help with socialisation and improve communication skills. Additionally, gardening provides an opportunity for children to experience teamwork and share responsibilities.

Benefits of Gardening for Teenagers

The benefits of Gardening. Teenagers

Teenagers can also benefit from gardening. Here are some of the benefits for teenagers:

Stress Relief: 

Gardening can be an excellent way for teenagers to unwind from their daily routines and reduce stress. The fresh air, sun, and physical activity can be therapeutic and help improve their emotional and physiological well-being.

STEM Education

Gardening is a multi-disciplinary activity and can provide teenagers with a wealth of knowledge and skills related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Gardening helps teenagers develop better scientific thinking and critical thinking skills.

Creative Expression: 

Gardening is an excellent way for teenagers to express themselves creatively through landscaping, choosing plant types and pairings, and garden design. With so many different types of gardens, from formal to cottage to tropical, young people can create their vision and express their creativity uniquely.

Work Ethic and Entrepreneurship: 

Gardening and growing plants require a great deal of time, effort, and dedication. Gardening provides opportunities for teenagers to develop excellent work ethics and entrepreneurial skills if they want to develop their gardens and sell their produce to the community.

Getting Started with Gardening

The benefits of Gardening

Starting a garden with children can be a fun and rewarding experience for both children and adults. Here are some tips for getting started:

Choose the Right Plants: 

When choosing plants, consider the child’s age and interests, as well as the type of garden that you want to create. Colourful flowers, herbs, and vegetables with bright colours can be great options for children and teens.

Create a Safe Space: 

Make sure that the garden is in a safe location and away from potential hazards such as poisonous plants or thorny bushes. Make the garden a “safe space” where children can explore, experiment and learn without worry.

Involve Children in Planning: 

Involve children in planning the garden by allowing them to select plants that interest them, help them create a design, and choose the layout for planting. This helps them to foster a sense of ownership and excitement around the upcoming gardening.

Provide Child-Friendly Garden Tools: 

Small garden tools such as kid-sized gardening gloves, shovels, rakes, and watering cans that they can use comfortably and safely can help make gardening more enjoyable for children.

Give Adequate Support: 

Provide adequate support to the children to ensure their success. To ensure they are healthy and strong, teach them basic plant care tools such as watering, pruning, and feeding plants.

Gardening is an activity that many associate with being a chore as an adult, or a hobby once retired, but it is an underappreciated activity in childcare and has several benefits for children of all ages. It provides a wealth of cognitive, social, health, and emotional benefits, making it a fantastic activity for toddlers, young children, and teenagers. 

Nannies should start small with easy-to-grow plants and work slowly so that children can learn and master the skills required for a successful garden. Remember to make the experience enjoyable for children, so they remain engaged and enthusiastic throughout the process. With patience, hard work, and creativity, gardening can be a fun and rewarding experience for children of all ages. Start planting today and help children to reap the benefits of gardening!

International Nanny Institute

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Natural Sleep Rhythms for babies, toddlers and young children  

Sleep seems to be one of the hot topics of parenthood, and with good reason; we all need sleep to be happy, healthy and functional and so do children.

Nannies are often asked for advice and support with children’s sleep, so it’s important to be educated on what is normal, and expected and how we can support families to get the sleep that they need.

Sleep is especially important for children in the early years of life who are in a stage of rapid physical and cognitive growth, but their sleep doesn’t always look like we expect it to or fit neatly with their parents’ sleep needs, and this can be both tiring and frustrating.

Humans’ natural sleep rhythms change throughout our lives, so it’s unlikely that a baby, toddler or young child is being deliberately difficult, or that anything is ‘wrong’ with them or their sleeping habits. It’s more likely that their natural sleep rhythm, or ‘body clock’ is simply out of sync with the needs of the adults in their lives.

Here we explore natural sleep rhythms at different ages and what we, as nannies, can do to ‘hack’ these to support parents and get the most out of children’s sleep patterns.

What is the body clock?

Sleep tips for babies, toddlers and young children

The body clock is a term that we often hear as adults and a great example of how the body clock works can be seen when we consider how older adults who have spent their working lives waking at 7 am to get ready for work find that in retirement they continue to wake naturally around 7 am even though they don’t need to.

When we repeatedly wake up at the same time for work or school, our bodies fall into a rhythm of wake and sleep that coincides with this.

This is often referred to as ‘the body clock’ and it’s why we experience jet lag when travelling because when we travel to different time zones our bodies are forced into waking or sleeping at different times to those they have come to expect.

What is the science behind this?

Natural Sleep Rhythms

Behind the experience of the ‘body clock’ there are two bodily systems that largely regulate our sleep. These systems are the circadian biological clock and sleep/wake homeostasis. These two systems together mean that we experience fluctuating levels of sleepiness and alertness throughout the day and night.

Sleep/wake homeostasis is the system that helps us to feel sleepy and sense the need to sleep at night to make up for our activities during the day. This system is designed to balance our sleep and wakefulness.

The circadian biological clock, on the other hand, is responsible for regulating the timings of alertness throughout a 24-hour period. This means that we often have periods of higher and lower alertness as we go through the day and night.

For adults, the pressure to sleep is greatest between 2 and 4 am, and between 1 and 3 pm. When we are sleep-deprived, the urge to sleep in the afternoon is much stronger, but when we are well-rested we may not even notice this.

Natural sleep rhythms for newborn babies

Natural Sleep Rhythms for Babies

As nannies, when we hear the phrase “sleeping like a baby” we can conclude that whoever invented this phrase, probably didn’t have a baby.

Newborn babies, from 0 to 3 months, typically don’t have great nighttime sleep, instead for newborns, sleep can occur day or night, and most newborns will total about 18 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period.

However, this doesn’t always occur in long blocks or exclusively at nighttime, and plenty of babies have their day and night muddled up!

Most babies need to learn the difference between daytime and nighttime, and set their circadian biological clock to meet their sleep needs.

However, newborns can’t be forced to sleep at the right time. Instead, nannies can support parents by gently encouraging newborns to differentiate between day and night.

One way to do this is to make daytime and nighttime very separate experiences; The daytime should be light and bright with all the usual comings and goings of the day, plenty of natural light in the house, and lots of interaction.

Taking a walk outside during the day will also help as even at this age exposure to different amounts and types of light affects the hormones that our bodies produce. 

Evening and nighttime on the other hand should be dimly light, and quieter with less playful interaction. This helps the body to produce melatonin, which makes humans feel sleepy.

Natural sleep rhythms for infants

Natural Sleep Rhythms for toddlers

Most nannies are familiar with, or have at least heard of, the 4-month sleep regression.

Around this time, babies will typically become more aware of their surroundings and find it more difficult to get to sleep as they are busy finding out more about the world.

This stands at odds with the fact that they still need plenty of sleep and will need to take up to 4 naps a day, gradually decreasing to just 1 or 2 as they approach their first birthday.

Some babies may begin to sleep through the night during this period of time, but this is not a universal trait, and the majority of babies still wake for feeds throughout their first year.

This is normal and a protective factor against SIDS.

In fact, humans used to have a period of time awake in the middle of the night, with 2 blocks of sleep either side up, so sometimes we see this evolutionary hard-wiring reflected in infant sleep patterns.

This can be difficult for parents to deal with, so nannies must work hard to reassure parents that this is very normal and that it is not their fault.

Natural sleep rhythms for toddlers

Natural Sleep Rhythms for toddlers

Toddlers, from about 1 to 3 years old, need about 11–14 hours of sleep per 24-hour period, but this won’t occur as one solid block of sleep, so napping in the afternoon is still important at this stage.

Having a nap in the afternoon works with the circadian biological clock, as it is around this time that we experience natural sleepiness.

An afternoon nap is a simple way to make sure that toddlers are getting the rest they need without the pressure to sleep in a huge block at night.

The nap should occur as close to the same time every day as possible to help set and keep a regular circadian biological clock.

Nannies can help parents to set and maintain a solid nap schedule to ensure that children are getting the sleep they need.

Natural sleep rhythms for young children

Natural Sleep Rhythms for young children

Between the ages of 3 and 5 young children need to sleep between 11 and 13 hours.

This might all happen at night, or they may maintain an afternoon nap, though this gradually gets shorter and generally stops before age 5. This age group is particularly sensitive to different colours of light, so this is a good way that nannies can help parents to ‘hack’ preschoolers’ sleep rhythm.

Blue light such as that from a computer, tablet or television screen can cause wakeful hormones to rise and make it more difficult for young children to sleep.

Nannies can ensure that screens are limited in general, but particularly in the hour before bedtime, in order to help young children to fall asleep more easily.

The blue light filters on devices can also be used to help keep blue light to a minimum throughout the day.

Nannies may also be familiar with the concept of ‘bedtime protest’, which is particularly characteristic of this age group and is where children refuse to go to bed at the time set by parents; this might result in children having tantrums, becoming very distressed or simply exhibiting challenging behaviour.

Some of this is likely to be a boundary-pushing behaviour, but it may also be the effect of the inbuilt circadian biological clock conflicting with modern or cultural schedules.

For example, whilst many societies expect children to go to bed at about 7 pm, other cultures, like that in Spain, allow children to stay up much later and enjoy extra time with the family whilst having an extended sleep in the afternoon called ‘siesta’.

However, since other societies are arranged to have children awake during the majority of the day and asleep all night ready to wake early, adjusting their biological circadian clock to be more compatible with our needs and expectations may be necessary.

Some of the tips here may be helpful, or you may want to check out our blog post on sleep tips to help babies, toddlers and young children to get a good night’s sleep.

International Nanny Institute

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