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The long term benefits of learning about plant life cycles

A frequent learning experience included in early years programming is planting tiny seeds into fully-fledged plants. Exploring the concept of plant lifecycles through growing a garden, is a wonderful way to bring this to life.

Written by: Early Educational Advisor - Jo Harris  

Learning outdoors is a unique experience because the environment is always in play. There are daily opportunities to discover in meaningful ways. Exploring can take the form of observing, experimenting, and implementing, with few tools needed to foster knowledge through direct and practical experience.

There is nothing quite like the smell of the first drops of rain hitting the dry earth after several days of constant sun and the joy of being caught in a rainstorm. Splashing about in puddles, noticing a reflection mirrored form back to you, watching leaves change their shape under the weight of the water water-bearing upon them, or enjoying a nutritious meal made with homegrown fruit, herbs, or vegetables tastes so much sweeter directly from the garden. 

In these moments, children learn valuable lessons and messages linked to their emotional health and well-being simply by engaging all of their senses through spending time outdoors and enjoying the natural high of connecting with nature and watching something come to fruition. Exploring the concept of plant lifecycles through growing a garden is a beautiful way to illustrate this concept.

Every living thing is part of a cycle.

Cycles of life are in and around us whether we are consciously aware of them. It may not be until we take the time to stop what we see or hear in the broader environment around us, but they are always there. 

Perhaps it is upon closer examination and reflection that it occurs to us that life is constantly happening. As the world turns, so do life’s inner workings, from the most diminutive creature to the largest. 

Children are often the instigators of noticing the smallest of details and eagerly share their thoughts, questions, and ideas. As educators, this learning journey can continue by capturing these and responding with planned and spontaneous teaching moments. 

A frequent learning experience included in early years programming is planting tiny seeds into fully-fledged plants. Often implemented in the Winter with the intention of a Spring harvest, it is a simple way to demonstrate the life cycle that also has important implications for social, emotional, and physical health. 

All living beings have things in common.

As humans and animals need clean air, water, food, and care, so do plants. To process these essentials, they also need highly functioning systems to draw the nutrients out of each to stay alive. 

The opportunity for children to care for plants can support them with an innate understanding of what makes them both similar and different. The need to stay hydrated can be shown by noticing how plants wilt when they need to be watered - as they observe that their skin may be red when hot and need to rest.

Lessons about the physiology of the human body and how it sustains life through breath could be an opportunity to learn more about how plants take in Carbon Dioxide and supply us with clean air. 

Setting up a compost station with food scraps provides nutrients for worms that create food for plants and invites conversation that offers practical examples of the interdependence between plants and animals.

Caring for living things can teach valuable lessons

Teaching concepts such as empathy and understanding can be quite abstract. Through varied life experiences, we further develop these qualities, language, and reflection skills to build our awareness of our place in the world. 

Much of the time spent with young children involves caring for them as they grow in their independence and learning skills through frequent repetition. Eventually, as they do, there are opportunities for them to begin to understand the needs of other beings.

Some many important qualities and dispositions can be taught and learned by growing plants that are integral to supporting children’s development. Some examples can include planning, perseverance, and pride.

Planning: includes time to research what to plant and where and the other materials or equipment needed. This could also consider who will be responsible for the care required with tasks such as watering and keeping plants free from bugs and pests.

Perseverance: Any experienced gardener can tell you that many jobs need to be done to keep a garden looking beautiful, and plants need time to grow and flourish. The process may require long periods before you can reap the reward of your efforts. 

Pride: The result of creation offers the most lasting impression. Knowing that you have contributed something bigger than yourself that is essential to life's health and that involves giving your time and energy can be intrinsically very rewarding. 

The inexplicable magic of the plant world is the innumerable health benefits that organically occur in nature. From providing a food source for wildlife to improving air quality and creating no-cost shaded areas for sun protection, children must become aware of their importance to life from a young age. 

Children can become active participants in their education through an environmental lens with a complete understanding and opportunity to become advocates for their health and wellbeing. Caring for plants, from seeds to food, helps children to see their learning in action. They are more likely to try more foods after being actively involved in their growth and the sense of ownership it can encourage.

For more information and resources that focus learning on life cycles and nature, please visit



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