Vegetable gardening was once a necessity. Before canned food and supermarkets, the whole family was out in the garden, practically year round. Kids learned from an early age how to weed and hoe, plant and harvest. Raising a vegetable garden is no longer necessary for sustenance, but in this busy day and age when we are growing more and more detached from the natural world, growing vegetables with kids can give the whole family so much more than just a tasty harvest.
According to Kansas State University News, growing a vegetable garden teaches kids sensitivity to the environment, how dependent we are upon the land and how their food is produced. In addition, growing vegetables makes them more likely to eat vegetables, which can promote a healthy diet. Gardening gives lesson in the value of hard work, responsibility and patience, and the rewards that come with such virtues. It can also be used as a jumping off point to explore a number of topics, such as insects, weather and nutrition.
From the time children are able to toddle into a garden, they're able to take part in it's keeping. Give a one-year-old a lightweight watering can and show him how to use it. Help a two-year-old sprinkle seeds in starter pots, or give a three-year-old a hand trowel to dig holes for transplants. By age four and five, teach kids how to sow seeds, transplant starter plants, weed, inspect plants for pests and harvest fruits. By ages nine and up, kids can begin making garden plans, scheduling maintenance and may be put in charge of specific crops.
You don't need farm land, or even a large yard, to garden with your children. Even a few square feet can be fertile ground for a number of vegetables. If you have no land or no soil, consider container gardening. Containers are inexpensive and most vegetables will thrive in them. Consider converting some things into planters, such as an old tub, plastic wading pool or plastic storage containers you no longer need.
Cherry tomatoes are bite-sized so kids can enjoy immediate satisfaction at harvest. Pumpkins are a treat for kids who love Halloween. Try to grow some root crops, such as potatoes, radishes or even baby carrots in a container. Pulling them out of the ground is an exciting moment. Add flowers, such as sunflowers and marigolds, or fruit, such as strawberries or melons, to your vegetable plot. Be very careful with children if you are growing irritants such as peppers or onions.
Don't fret if kids get dirty, advises Texas A&M University's website tip sheet for gardeners working with kids. Let them dig for digging's sake. Direct kids gently; try not to boss them around like field hands. If kids begin to get bored with one activity, direct them to another to keep their attention. Plant fast-growing crops, such as radishes, for quick gratification, which can be very encouraging to young children.