Gardening can be used as a powerful tool to teach children the interconnectedness of all things — including our dependence on and understanding of how the cycle of life works. It may appear to be a bit deep of a conversation to have while your family plants their tulips and herbs, nevertheless I think it’s an important connection to emphasis.
Plants are born, and once they die, they can return the next year in a new form, or grow into something else that helps the earth. This process of gardening helps children understand the concept of life and death cycles in a larger context. We are all born, we all die, and what happens to us is merely within the nature of life itself. Using gardening as a teaching tool for kids to understand the philosophical inquiries of the meaning of life may seem a bit far-fetched, but what better way to concretely show how the life works in its most natural state.
When my daughter was young, we had a garden of beautiful hybrid tea roses in our backyard and the two of us would tend them in the summer. She would help me dig up the dirt with her little bucket and we would watch these beautiful flowers bloom. On the other hand, we would also watch these flowers die at the end of the season. Every year, it would make my daughter sad. She couldn’t quite comprehend why we would tend so carefully to a set of flowers that would wither away at the end of season. Through a child’s eyes, it made me realize how truly sad it is to watch a brilliant flower slowly shrivel up and fall apart unto their inevitable death.
I explained to my little girl that the roses would return next year and that the flowers have to die in order to be born again. Explaining the cycle of life and death to a child through gardening ultimately helps when a loved one dies as well. It is a way to explain to a child that everything from a flower to a person has to die, but that it gives way for something else to be born in its place. The following year when my daughter saw our beautiful roses bloom again, it also helped to prove that the cycle of life is constantly moving and changing.
Understanding that all living things from plants to people are intrinsically a part of the same world is a connective and vital experience as well. It may also be interesting to explain that the cycle of life means that we return to the ground once we die, and become something else again.
It is hard work to tend to plants and help them grow, and ultimately is an example of how life works in itself. Next time you are in the garden with the kids, talk about the cycle of life — it is sure to be a beautiful, philosophical experience for everyone involved.