Kids and gardens – as a mom and a nutritionist, I love when these two worlds collide! When my children were small, I always looked forward to this time of the year when we began planning our garden as a family.
I believe that talking to kids about food and how it grows is one of the best ways we can teach our children to have an appreciation and flavour for real food. Real food is found growing on a tree, in the garden, grazing in a field or swimming in the ocean. Real food is not often found in boxes or packages. It is up to us to teach our children how to tell the difference. One of the best ways to teach this important lesson is to grow some food as a family. You don’t even need to have an actual garden plot in the backyard to be able to have your own harvest. Many people grow their produce on balconies or decks in large pots and boxes with much success.
Neat things happen in dirt. Starting when my children were about three years old, one of their ‘jobs’ was to look for worms as we dug up the soil and prepared it for planting. They were fascinated by worms. We would collect them in pails and watch them wiggle. My boys began learning about the importance of earthworms to the health of our garden and how to be kind to other living creatures. After the worm excavation, the boys would take turns planting the seeds, row by row. Once the planting was finished, the worms were returned to their garden home. Each day after we planted our seeds, there was much anticipation to run out to the garden and check to see if anything had grown yet. Here they began learning about how our seeds needed water and sun to grow.
As the plants began to mature and produce tomatoes, peas and beans, the boys learned what real food tastes like and to value the work that goes into helping plants grow. They also learned patience by discovering what a tomato tastes like when we don’t wait long enough for it to fully ripen!
As a mom, I learned that children have a greater capacity for understanding the world around them than I had previously given them credit for. I also learned that my children felt valued when they were able to help. They loved watering the garden independently with their little watering cans or being sent out to the garden to collect carrots for dinner.
I encourage you to give gardening a try with your family. Some of the easiest things to grow are cherry tomatoes, beans and peas if you are just starting out. The time commitment is minimal and the plants are fairly easy to maintain. Happy gardening!
Written by Amy Sonnenberg