Often we think of early literacy as bedtime stories, singing and rhyming, and doing crafts together. As parents, we are our children’s first teacher and they learn through these activities. My toddler loves all of these things, but she is also learning by playing in the garden.
Sidney would spend all day in the yard, and in her greenhouse if she were able to. She thinks she’s just playing, but she is learning so much out there. Already, at age two, she knows the basics of the plant lifecycle, from seed to seedling to plant to fruit. She knows that plants need water and sun, and that vegetables from the garden are way better than from the store.
She is learning how to “read” the seed packets, using the image on the packet to tell us what they will grow. She counts the number of plants we have, and sings lots of songs about the garden. She has also learned a lot about responsibility; she is often the one reminding us each night that our seedlings need watering!
My husband and I both come from farming families and have been in gardens our whole lives. The things that I am most excited for my kids to learn about gardening come from generations before them. My husband’s grandma taught him to water in the evening, and his mom taught him to wet the hole when transplanting. My grandfather taught me that a dead crow hanging in the garden is the best scarecrow, and my great-grandmother taught me the best potato bug picking method. While many of these lessons may be silly, or small, sharing this intergenerational knowledge is another piece of literacy that Sidney is learning through gardening.
May 15 is International Day of Families and June 1 is Intergenerational Day. These days are great opportunities to celebrate what we learn as a family, and what we learn from our family. Telling family stories and teaching lessons from previous generations is a fun way to develop our children’s early literacy.
— Katie Johnson, Youth and Adult Services (on parental leave)