Unexpected ways to find garden success

Over the past month I have begun to host family-friendly gardening workshops in my backyard (with the help of my co-host!). Most of the workshops have been free, so to make people feel like they have “registered” I asked them to answer a few questions about what their gardening challenges are and what they’d like their kids to get out of the experience. Okay, I admit it, in part I was just plain curious to know what people would say.

The answers revealed what you may expect from parents who wanted to participate in a family-friendly gardening workshop—many wanted their kids to know where food came from and to experience nature close-up.

I hoped that by preparing for these workshops I would have a whole bunch of wonderful content to share on the blog. And I do! But in the midst of the busyness of preparing and the chaos of getting 20 pairs of hands (aged six months+) digging in the soil all at once, I have not yet translated the workshop experience to a blog format. I didn’t even take a single picture during the first one.

During this same month of workshops the weather has been unseasonably, no, incredibly warm. May 1st was HOT, eerily so, but we took advantage of it and headed to the beach (for the 3rd time in two weeks, unheard of during a Vancouver spring).

And at the beach we did all the typical beach-y things, including this:


We put our heads down and dug in sand, poured water and played in the elements with complete focus. It was then that I had an epiphany: playing on the beach we were achieving many of those things that the parents at the workshop wanted for their kids. We were immersed in the textures of the sand, the joy of pouring water and transforming natural elements to a small garden of our imagination’s making. We were in close connection to nature and we were having fun!

True, we weren’t learning how food grows, but the kids did decide to create a garden for the castle, their hearts were gardening. And I think that is what really counts.

When people talk about a connection to nature they are not usually thinking of an intellectual connection, it is something that comes from the heart. Play brings that heart connection.

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” –  Fred Rogers

And this is where “learning” in the formal, adult understanding of the word departs from how children learn. If you can trust that play is a path to learning you can enjoy the gift of an incredible day at the beach with friends with no guilt for how weedy or unplanted your garden may be. A family garden may just have to be a messy one.

So, go ahead, count your sandcastles as a gardening success. After all—


“Play is the highest form of research.” – Albert Einstein

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