Gardening - Supporting Your Child's Development

It’s sunny outside and many families are busy with household chores. Why not involve your little ones in the process! Everyday activities are great opportunities to add language skills and new words to your child’s vocabulary.

Big W have little character pots with grass seeds for $5, but you can find pots and seeds at your local $2 shops or hardware shops. You may even have some already in your back yard.

Alfalfa seeds are also great for pot activities, as you can sample them for a new flavour, or use them to decorate the top of garden salads. Involving children in growing and preparing food can help them become curious in their food adventures. Remember, never force a child to eat anything, just offer it as their choice. You can both watch it grow over the week and measure how high it is. You can even give it a funny hair cut for fun! Watch those scissors!

How to add Language?

Expand Vocabulary: Talk to your child about the activity using a range of different words. Vocabulary size at Kindy entry is a strong predictor of learning to read and being successful in school (Rowe, 2012). Use a range of words, even complex words

The types of words;

Nouns: Talk about the name of each item involved in your activity. For example; pot, soil, water, gloves, newspaper, seeds, etc.

Verbs: Talk about the actions used when doing the activity. For example; dig, move, push, pour, sprinkle, watering. You can use action words when observing its growth: sprouting, growing, blooming, dying.

Sequence words: Talk about the steps to help your child understand time and order concepts. Words include; first, next, then, when. For older children; before, after, last, beginning, end, morning, afternoon, earlier, later.

Describing words: Talk about what you saw or did and describe words such as how to do something; quickly, slowly, or how you feel in that moment; excited, worried.

Discussion: Talk with your child about some of the items you will need to get to do the activity. Ask them if they can find the items for following instructions. Ask them what they found to practice using new words after given a model to copy.

Requesting: Keep the things you need out of reach to provide an opportunity for your little one to ask you for things. You can discuss what you will need to do the job, e.g get the table ready.

Sabotage: Forget to fill the watering bucket with water. Not only will this make it funny for your little one and increase their joy of spending time with you, but it will also give them the chance to use their words to tell you what’s wrong.

Narrative: During dinner or your night-time routine, recall the events of the day with the gardening activity. This is a good way to practice the new words learnt today as well as share a good memory you have made together. By talking about the steps you did, your child will be able to recall the sequence of events, an important skill for telling stories, or narratives. Don’t forget to listen to what your child would like to tell you. You can prompt with guided questions such as “what part was the messiest?” or “what did you like doing?” Research has indicated that asking questions to your child as early as 10 months old can increase their language development at 18 months (Muhinyi & Rowe 2019).

Literacy: Read the seed packet and instructions together. This supports an interest in the functional use of reading and depending on the age of your child, they may be able to recognise some letters or words already. It is well documented that early home literacy involvement supports the development of language and literacy skills in children (Niklas, Cohrssen & Tayler 2016). Reading books about the topic, describing the pictures and expanding the topic to include their own experience is a great way to positively influence your child’s language and literacy skills (Muhinyi & Rowe 2019). Start reading books together early, as studies have also shown that infants who were read to as young as 8 months old had better communication and language skills at 12 months and greater skills again at age 4! (Karrass & Braungart-Rieker, 2005).

Pretend Play: Rehearse the actions and the story in pretend play. Pretend play enables the child to have a go with language as well as develop strong social interaction skills needed for getting along with other children.

When children are enjoying an activity, they are more motivated to learn the language connected to the activity.

Have Fun!


J. Karrass, J.M. Braungart-Rieker. (2005). Effects of shared parent–infant book reading on early language acquisition. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 26 (2), pp. 133-148.

Muhinyi, A., & Rowe, M. L. (2019). Shared reading with preverbal infants and later language development. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 64.

Niklas, F., Cohrssen, C., & Tayler, C. (2016). The Sooner, the Better: Early Reading to Children. SAGE Open.

M.L. Rowe. (2012). A longitudinal investigation of the role of quantity and quality of child-directed speech in vocabulary development. Child Development, 83(5) pp. 1762-1774.

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