Bringing Children Into the Garden and Those Veggies Onto Their Plates
“Eat your veggies or no dessert!”
Have you ever said those words? Has someone said them to you? If you are a parent, the answer might be yes to both questions. It is well known fact that parents have struggled to encourage their children to eat their vegetables. There they are sitting there getting cold, soggy and sad. There on the plate next to all stars like mac n’ cheese and fried chicken, that broccoli looks so lonely, so uninviting. How can we change this story?
Studies have shown that children who take part in gardening fruits and vegetables are much more likely to want to eat those foods (PFLEGER, 2015). Urban gardening is a great way to involve children in the growing of their food and improve their understanding of where their food comes from. A program in Colorado called Denver Urban Gardens (DUG), works with local schools in the area to build gardens on their campuses. The produce is then sold to the school lunch programs and the children get to eat the vegetables they have helped grow.
Gardening With Young Children has Many Benefits
- Children Can Practice Motor Skills– Watering, using small tools and grasping delicate plants are all important in motor skill development.
- Sensory Stimulation– Playing with water, the soil and plants and enjoying the different textures and smells, are all important in a child’s development.
- Visual Beauty and New Flavors– Teach children an early appreciation for nature’s beauty and at the same time familiarize them with food outside the dinning room.
- Literacy– Teaching children the names of plants and vegetables can be a useful way to familiarize them with nature and help them with reading and writing.
- Cognitive development– Strengthen children’s cognitive skills by teaching the growing process and by predicting outcomes such as, watering needs, growth and care.
- Togetherness– Being outside and in the fresh air with your children is good for their mental and physical health. (Butche, 2017)
If They Grow Them, They Will Eat
Any activity spent with your children is a worth while one. Building a garden at home is a great way for you to spend time with your family and teach/learn important lessons, like how to grow specific crops, what plants need to survive and thrive and a sense of responsibility in the care of something living. Here are some great crops that are perfect for growing at home with your children:
- Green Beans– These vegetables are a great option as they are relatively easy to grow and fun to eat. They also help fix nitrogen into your soil making them a great addition to any home garden.
- Cherry Tomatoes– Everyone loves home grown tomatoes! Cherry tomatoes taste great, are fun to eat, and are super easy to grow.
- Potatoes– Everyone loves French fries! Potatoes are a great home garden option because you can grow them in a container or even a bucket. This is the best option as well, because potatoes can take over your garden if you plant them directly in the soil. (ProTip: harvest the potatoes when the flowers on the plant die).
- Carrots– What kid doesn’t want to be like Bugs Bunny munching on a carrot? These orange roots are a great idea for the home garden because they can survive most climates and they are delicious! (Run Wild My Child, 2019)
I hope that you all will take these ideas and bring your children and/or yourselves out into the garden and start growing!
Butche, K. (2017, 4 24). Gardening with young children helps their development. Retrieved from Michigan State University: https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/gardening_with_young_children_helps_their_development
PFLEGER, P. (2015, 8 10). Healthy Eaters, Strong Minds: What School Gardens Teach Kids. Retrieved from The Salt: https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/08/10/426741473/healthy-eaters-strong-minds-what-school-gardens-teach-kids
Run Wild My Child. (2019, July 5). Gardening with Kids: 5 Easy Vegetables to Grow. Retrieved from Run Wild My Child: https://runwildmychild.com/easy-vegetables-to-grow-with-kids/#:~:text=Green%20beans%20are%20perfect%20for%20growing%20in%20a,spot%20and%20can%20also%20be%20grown%20in%20pots.
2 thoughts on “Grow To Learn, Grow To Love:”
whats great about this is the simplicity to be active and be outside and do something most would think is complicated to those that never have an opportunity to grow their own food. even the bucket kit for mushrooms is pretty easy to grow. planting the seed in a child to get interest in their world around them as far as nature goes will be a positive and safe way to get their curiosity and bond. Here is a link to further benefits in this area https://extension.psu.edu/programs/betterkidcare/early-care/tip-pages/all/gardening . this is nice and using urban ag in a non commercial way but a way to even influence your people around you also plants the seed of curiosity and at least people are more aware of how their food is grown and that it is possible to grow them yourself. This is almost a more adult friendly guide to gardening and i love it good job!
I really appreciate the topic of your post! Just earlier this year I was working with a local elementary school to reestablish their school garden. We learn at CPP the value of “learn by doing” and gardening is a fantastic approach to encourage more hands-on learning in children. During the weekends, the students and I would work for hours cleaning up and filling their raised beds with vegetables and fruit. There was something to do for everyone, no matter their age. The younger children could put on their gloves and pull weeds or help plant seeds. The oldest children were helping mix compost in vegetable beds and repotting dragon fruit. Their questions were endless! They were passionately telling stories about gardening with their grandparents and how excited they were to see our vegetables grow someday.
In addition to learning about gardening, they were also being exposed to the natural world around them. Students were brining me sticks covered with aphids or other insects so I could identify them. We watched the honeybees in the lavender bushes, and I taught them about pollination (and why they should not be afraid of bees). They were even engrossed in the technicalities of soil texture and how it relates to percolation and water hold capacity! Pomona is a suburban community, so I know most of these students probably have not been widely exposed to nature. It was eye-opening to see just how much they could learn about different environmental factors just from school gardening. It really opened my eyes to how valuable of an education resource they can be, even beyond an agricultural perspective.
As children are usually bundles of pure energy, these days were stimulating ways for them to learn with their minds and bodies, as well as interact with the world around them.