Gardening with kids can improve their diet!
Humans of all ages tend to take interest and care of things that matter to them, whether it’s animals, clothes, toys or their bodies. Fruits and vegetables can be a “tough sell” to kids and I think one way we can change that is to nurture their relationship with food through the magic of gardening. When kids are invested in and involved with growing something they eat, it naturally stirs up feelings of ownership, wonder and pride. Want proof of this phenomenon? Have you ever tried to recycle a drawing, an old school project or take apart a kid’s Lego creation? It can result in tears! Our kids are really attached to what they create so why not take that sense of pride and ownership into the garden!
Kids like what they know!
Kids are creatures of comfort, most tend to like what they know, this concept is discussed in one of my favorite books called French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon. One of the biggest things I took away from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution show was that a lot of kids don’t know fruits and vegetables! Jamie was in a classroom holding up produce, and so many kids couldn’t name simple ones like tomatoes. By getting our kids gardening, they will know what they grow! So let them help you pick out the seeds, plant them and help them grow with watering and even weeding. Not only will they take great pride in what they have grown… they will know their food very well by the time it comes to tasting it!
Where do you start?
If you have the space to garden, you could devote a certain area for your kids to plant their own garden, or you could just keep it as one big family garden. Since kids love color so much, you could plant a Rainbow Garden. Think of planting produce that will be red, orange, yellow, green and blue/purple! Another idea is to plant produce that germinates quickly. This will appeal to kid’s joy of instant gratification because it can be disappointing for them to plant a seed and not be able to see anything growing for a while. Radishes are great for this because they come up in three or four days! Other popular choices zucchini, carrots, lettuce, peas and strawberries.
What if you don’t have outdoor space?
No problem! Your kids can grow herbs in small pots or the next time you buy a stalk of celery cut off the stalks leaving the bottom and put it in a glass jar with some water… your kids will be thrilled to see new celery growing from the old stalk in a few days!
Many cities now have community gardens so even if you don’t have your own yard you can still grow some of your own food! If none of those options will work for your family, you can always take your kids to a farmers market where they can talk to the people that grow their food! That is another way to help them form a connection with the food they eat.
Raising Happy Healthy Eaters
“Tell me, I forget. Show me, I remember. Involve me, I understand.” – Carl Orff
This is one of my favorite quotes when it comes to my philosophy of parenting, whether it’s cooking, gardening or any other skill I want to pass on to my daughter.
Gardening can be really magical for kids. Planting seeds, watching them grow into plants and turn into something they can eat is such a great experience! I think one of the best ways to get kids to enjoy fruits and vegetables is to engage as many of their senses as possible – smell, sight, taste, touch – gardening is a great way to incorporate all of these! When kids associate fruits and vegetables with something fun, they are much more likely to give them a try and what could be more fun than playing in the dirt and watching their food grow!
Growing produce and growing good eaters takes practice, persistence and patience. Gardens and kids are very similar; they are magical, fun, and always worth the effort you put into them!
Happy Healthy Growing,
Kia Robertson is a mom and the creator of the Today I Ate A Rainbow kit; a tool that helps parents establish healthy habits by setting the goal of eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day. Kia is passionate about creating tools that help parents raise healthy kids!