The Harlequin children have recently picked the vegetables and herbs they have been growing in the garden. As part of our Food for Life Award we are looking forward to tasting all of the lovely produce we will be growing over the coming year! Exploration of the outdoor environment and real experiences of growing things outdoors supports all of the seven Areas of Learning within the Early Years Foundation Stage. Children of any age can learn to grow food and it is great if they start doing it when very young. Growing food gives children practical skills and an understanding of where their food comes from. They will also have a greater awareness of healthier diets and experience of many new shapes, colours and textures in the world around them. Gardening encourages children to be active, improving their physical health and to work together with others. Providing growing and gardening opportunities for babies and young children enables them to connect with the living environment. Regular hands on experiences with plants, animals and insects provide an essential part of learning and development as well as supporting their emotional and physical health and wellbeing. Outdoor experiences of the natural world will support children to flourish in many ways and offer a wide range of experiences including: Encouraging the exploration of different foods Children who are involved in preparing the soil, growing seeds, planting seedlings, caring for fruit and vegetables are more motivated to find out what the food tastes like when it has been harvested. We will be incorporating our harvest into cooking/tasting activities. Providing a variety of ways to be physically active Children have the opportunity to dig, rake and plant as well as lots of lifting and carrying, pushing wheelbarrows and watering. These activities will not only help to develop their fine and gross motor skills but also offer physical activity for exercise too. Improving their social skills Children are supported to take turns, share tools and resources and work as part of team to achieve a goal together. They are also encouraged to think about others in the wider community, if there is a glut of produce this will be shared with both our parents and other community groups, perhaps even be a fundraising project! Using all of their five senses Children explore plants that stimulate all of the senses. When planning our gardening area we have been thinking about the colour, shape, smell and texture. Awareness of the world around them Children have opportunities to learn where their food comes from, what makes plants grow, the lifecycles of plants and animals, understanding of seasons, the weather, wildlife and recycling through your gardening projects. Building self confidence There can be a huge sense of achievement in gardening when you can see what your ‘labours’ have produced! Developing a sense of time Some plants grow fairly quickly but they are not ready immediately. Being involved in growing lets children understand more about the necessity of waiting for some things, particularly with plants where they can see new growth each day and are rewarded with the harvest at the end!