My name is Anita Croft and I support early childhood educators develop gardening programmes for under 5’s. Gardening is important for building young children’s connections with nature and helps to build their environmental awareness. When children are involved in each step of the growing process they learn about diversity in the garden, develop respect for the plants they grow, and they are more likely to eat the food they have grown.

After seven years teaching in early childhood and eight years in tertiary I’ve seen the positive impact that gardening programmes have on our youngest children, not just around environmental awareness but as gardening is a social process, developing respect for each other too. I am a registered and qualified early childhood teacher, with a Master of Education degree, for which I researched pre-service early childhood teachers’ preparedness to teach education for sustainability when they begin their teaching career.

I grew up on a farm, where my passion for nature and growing my own food was fostered, and I have been growing my own seasonal vegetables for many years. I love nothing more than to go out to my garden to pick fresh vegetables for dinner. I am now combining my passion for gardening with my passion for young children by providing gardening programmes in early childhood centres, and professional development and mentoring support to early childhood educators to build or extend their gardening programmes so they can ignite a passion for nature, gardening and kaitiakitanga in young children.