5 surprising health benefits of gardening for children, according to a medical expert

From helping fussy eaters to improving sleep and motor skills, a health advisor shares the five ways gardening can boost your kids' health this summer

child pouring red watering can
(Image credit: Getty / Halfpoint Images)

Avid gardeners will already be familiar with the stress-busting and exercise benefits of gardening. However, according to medical experts, getting your kids outside with some garden activities for kids could be beneficial for their health too.

This week marks National Children's Garden week, the perfect time to encourage your kids out into the garden. According to Gemma Harper, Health Adviser for Bupa UK, a couple of hours out in the garden as a family will not only keep stress at bay but will help build stronger and happier family relationships. 

If you needed any more incentive Gemma has rounded up the five main gardening health benefits for children.

1. Introduces movement

grow table from Cuckooland

(Image credit: Cuckooland)

Gardening is a recognized form of exercise for parents and children alike. 'Gardening incorporates a range of movements that help to build your family’s strength and skills,' explains Gemma. 

'Parents can reap the benefits of labor-intensive activities like digging, raking, and mowing – which can sometimes burn the same number of calories as a workout.'

To help your children get the same benefits Gemma recommends getting them involved with smaller-scale versions of these activities with their own mini tools. You can take it a step further and make sure the whole garden is optimized for your little ones with our how to design a child-friendly garden guide.

'Movements like these, along with writing plant labels and planting seeds in the soil, all help to develop your child’s fine motor skills,' adds Gemma.

2. Vitamin D

Sun is forecast all week, so now is the best time for your kids to soak up some vitamin D in the garden. 

'Exposure to sunlight helps our body to produce vitamin D; it’s important to get enough of this vitamin to keep your bones and immune system healthy,' says Gemma.

However, sunshine has benefits beyond vitamin D, it can also improve serotonin levels. 'This hormone can help to put you in a better mood and keep you calm and focussed,' explains Gemma.

'Whether it’s cloudy or not, sunlight generates the production of melatonin in our bodies – which helps to regulate our internal clocks, leading to better sleeping patterns.'

However, while sunshine is essential for health always be sure to cover yourself and your kids with a good SPF. It is also a good idea to avoid gardening when the sun is at its highest between 11am and 3pm, alternatively you can invest in one of the best garden parasols.

3. Improve your diet

raised planter with labels filled with crops

(Image credit: Tim Young/Future)

Growing your own fruits and vegetables from seeds is a satisfying task, however, it can also help your children to eat better.

'Along with teaching your little ones responsibilities and where their food comes from, it may encourage fussier eaters to be more tempted to try new foods,' suggests Gemma.

'These foods will be fresh and rich in nutrients– all of which are important to have in a diet that’ll keep your family fit and healthy.' 

For more advice about how to grow your own, explore our guide on the best vegetables to grow in raised beds.

4. Social bonding

den kit with bunting

(Image credit: The Den Kit Company)

Bonding as a family is one of the most significant benefits of prising your children away from the PlayStation for an hour or two.

'Getting outside and away from screens can help strengthen the relationship between you and your children,' says Gemma. 'Finding a hobby that the whole family enjoys together can help you to feel better connected. It can also give you a sense of pride and achievement as you watch your hard work bloom over the coming months.'

5. Reduces stress

cream Banwood bike

(Image credit: Cuckooland.com)

Green spaces have been associated with reducing depression, anxiety, and stress, however, you don't need a large park to reap these benefits, a small garden will work just as well. 

'Swedish research has shown that people who spend more time in their garden are less likely to report suffering from stress,' says Gemma. 'Gardening helps you to flex your creative skills and keeps you focussed. Playing with color and texture of different plants can be a great pastime and a stressbuster, too!'