Our “ABC of Better Me” Preschool Gardens Throughout Serbia
From planting to growing and sowing fruits and vegetables – what can children learn if they are involved in the gardening? Our preschool gardens throughout Serbia teach them the entire process of gardening, organic production and healthy eating habits in an interactive and interesting way.
For children, gardens hide a completely new world full of discoveries and creativity. Planting seeds and monitoring their growth, cultivating the land and harvesting fruits are all activities in which a child can participate and thus acquire some new skills. In addition, it is easier for a child to adopt healthy eating habits when they understand how fruits and vegetables are made and what their benefits are.
Bearing in mind that the quality of children’s eating habits is declining from year to year, the Novak Djokovic Foundation, in cooperation with experts and nutritionists, created the program “ABC of Better Me“ which helps preschool children to naturally adopt healthy eating habits.
A key part of the program is the establishment and maintenance of “Good Gardens” in preschools throughout Serbia, together with preschool teachers and children.
These gardens have the role of “laboratories“, where children have the opportunity to learn about nature, natural processes and the needs of fruits, vegetables and other plants in order to grow and bear fruit. “Good Gardens” are established according to the principles of organic production, so that the fruits are eventually used during culinary workshops that we organize for parents, educators and children, in order to show children how nature and nutrition are connected.
Onions, zucchini, strawberries, spinach, potatoes are just some of the healthy foods that children grow in our preschool gardens with the help of their teachers and they eat together later on.
As part of the “ABC of Better Me” program, we also organize special training for teachers to work with children in gardens, in order to introduce them to this new world in the best and most interactive way possible and to transfer their knowledge to other colleagues. In this way, we ensure the sustainability of our program and build a community that nurtures healthy eating habits.
So far, we have built our preschool gardens in 7 preschools in different parts of Serbia: in Belgrade, Svilajnac, Ub, Jagodina and Pecinci.
Unfortunately, the current coronavirus pandemic has slowed the further development of our program, but our team continues to adapt its work to all new challenges. If you want to support the establishment of “Good Gardens” in other preschools throughout Serbia, you can join us via this link.
Why is gardening beneficial for children?
Bearing in mind that children at an early age have the greatest learning capacities, and that contact with nature, staying outside and growing plants has a positive effect on overall health, the reasons for including children in gardening are numerous. Our expert from the “ABC of Better Me” program, Vesna Zečević, singled out a couple of the most important ones for you:
- Gardening activates children’s senses and develops their motor skills
In the garden, in addition to being able to touch the soil, use various tools and seeds, children can also spot the differences between different plants, in terms of color and size, smell different scents, hear sounds of different insects. Interacting with the surrounding nature encourages the learning process. Playing with soil, hoes and water buckets, digging, planting, watering, pulling out weeds stimulate movements of the body, particularly arms and hands. These activities help with the development of motor skills, and through their own experiences, children learn what is difficult and what is easy, small or big, smooth or rough, cold or warm, dry or wet.
- Children learn about natural processes through play
From the moment they sow the first seed, with immeasurable curiosity, they will follow the growth and flowering of plants, the formation and ripening of fruit. They will have countless questions, and will therefore learn about natural processes. They will learn about the importance of insects and worms for plants and will understand that everything in nature is connected. Comparing the growth of plants and the size of the fruit, counting seeds, fruits, or petals of flowers are interesting games for children and recognizing plants by appearance and name is an excellent memory game.
- They gain responsibility, patience and awareness about the importance of the environment
By being active in the garden, children will quickly learn that they have to be patient and responsible and wait until the seed germinates so that their plant can grow and yield its first fruits. They will learn that it is necessary to water them regularly, to clean them from weeds and to dig around them, that plants need enough sunlight, and to wait until a seed turns into a plant. They will quickly learn why it is important to care for the environment. That is an opportunity to learn about vermin, pesticides, pollution and recycling.
- Gardening nurtures self-confidence and healthy diet habits
Planting and cultivating plants, picking vegetables and fruit, cleaning vegetables and getting children involved in the preparation of food from plants, which they helped grow, will certainly result in a wish to try and consume the food they prepared. They will gladly try vegetables and fruit they planted and cultivated themselves. This is the best way for children to understand the importance of healthy food and proper diet.
- Great family and preschool activity
Working in a garden can be a family tradition which brings the whole family together, every year at the same time. Parents and children will spend quality time working as a team, and later they will all participate in food preparation, which is a rarity today. Studies have shown that gardening improves moods and that it has positive effects on the health and quality of life of both adults and children.
One of the fundamental conditions for the proper development of every child is a balanced and adequate diet. That is why, through the “ABC of Better Me” program, we are working on the adoption of good eating habits in preschool and at home, by including all stakeholders whose common goal is the comprehensive and complete development of the child. If you want as many preschools in Serbia to get their “Good Gardens”, you can support our work through this link.