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Why You Should Garden With Your Kids + How to Have Fun Doing It
Gardening with your children is a fun experience that can teach them a lot. It can also be intimidating if you aren't already a gardener, but you shouldn’t be scared away because of lack of experience.
“Don't worry about mess or having perfect rows,” farm-to-family specialist Michelle Ratcliffe, PhD says. “It’s about being outdoors, together and exploring.”
Here are five benefits of gardening with your kids and a few tips for making gardening an enjoyable experience all around.
1. Kids are more likely to eat fruits and veggies they grow
Children are so used to having decisions made for them that the opportunity to choose for themselves is motivating. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6 in 10 children didn’t eat enough fruit in 2007-2010 and 9 in 10 children didn’t eat enough vegetables. That means that your kids will be ahead of the curve when they enjoy the fruits — and vegetables — of their labor.
“If kids grow it or choose it, they will eat it,” Ratcliffe writes on rootopia.com. “Garden themed activities connect families with how food is grown, and the various ways in which it is processed and purchased.”
2. Kids learn about health and nature
Children generally aren’t afraid of creepy, crawly creatures until an adult teaches them to be nervous.
“Worms, caterpillars, grubs, insects, spiders and all sorts of wondrous creatures are out in your garden as part of the ecosystem,” the ACGA says. “Please see them as integral parts of the system, and the kids will be amazed and curious, not afraid.”
Help kids understand how gardening contributes to the community by participating in or visiting a community garden and connect gardening lessons to ideas they’re learning in school. You can even donate the food you grow to the local food pantry and help feed families in need fresh delicious foods. Check out Ample Harvest to learn where.
Gardening opens up lots of topics for learning and discussion if you watch out for them and make time to grab those “teachable moments”! And your kids may surprise you with the conversations they bring up in the garden. Often they are willing to talk about life, ideas and their feeling more in the garden then just about anywhere else.
3. Kids develop curiosity, organization and communication
Children ask endless questions, and working in a garden will help them experience how to discover answers. Karen Phillips, program director for The Discovery Center child care center, writes about how kids wanted to “grow pizza,” so they planted tomatoes, onions, peppers, oregano and basil.
“Anything you do to engage kids with plants and growing food matters,” Ratcliffe says. “Have kids make signs for the plants, or name the garden beds. Involve them in planning what you will grow where. Put them in charge of a specific task such as weeding and water a section, or younger kids can be on slug patrol.”
Teach about different types of organization. For example, Phillips points out children should plant certain types of seeds, like beans, in a row, while they can scatter other seeds like carrots and radishes.
4. Gardening encourages social and emotional development
Kids working with you and each other will learn teamwork and problem solving as they deal with weeds, inclement weather and other issues with real consequences.
Because they’ll be growing food to eventually eat and share, gardening also gives children a sense of purpose as they follow a task through to completion.
5. Green thumb or not, you’ll learn from gardening, too
Start small, and take advantage of resources, such as rootopia.com, which offers gardening activity ideas, inspiration and recipes. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, instead focusing on creating a great experience for your family. And know that it is only through trial and error do you learn the art, science and fun of gardening with your kids.
“Kids don’t often hear much positive feedback from adults, and creating and tending a garden also empowers kids because they hear that they have ‘done a good job’ from other adults,” communitygarden.org says.
Having fun in the garden
Before you do anything, remember that (1) This is about having fun together outdoors – not planting perfect rows or growing award-winning squash; (2) You can only learn over time; and (3) Anything you can do to engage kids with gardening is good, whether they’re making signs for the plants, weeding or handling slug patrol.
Now that you’re really ready, check out tips for what to do this month, and ask an expert any questions that come up. Looking for something especially kid-friendly? Try making newspaper pots and or growing a teepee you can eat.
Honda knows the importance of family time and what it means to be a busy parent. That's why Northwest Honda Dealers proudly support Rootopia, where the art, science and fun of raising happy, healthy kids comes together. Make time to get out and plant something with your family, and give kids two of the greatest gifts — roots and wings.