Growing your own vegetables has a multitude of advantages for your family: It saves you money and provides the healthiest type of produce available. By getting your children involved, you are not only teaching those frugal and healthy skills, but also developing a growing love for learning in a healthy fashion--by getting one's hands dirty.
Gardening can strengthen one's muscles and intellect and nurture a familial bond like no other activity. Gardening uses math skills, science and responsibility and fosters a love for healthy eating. Whether you are just starting out with a tomato plant in a pot on your patio or growing a large veggie patch, getting your children involved in the work will reap benefits for all involved.
Get the Kids Involved in Planning
Studies have proven that children who are involved in growing and preparing ingredients for healthy foods tend to be more open to trying new foods. When it comes to gardening, kids who help plan the garden plot and care for plants have a healthy desire to experience the fruit of their labor. That child who may never touch something green on his plate may very well be eager to taste a fresh pea that he's watched grow to maturity. Make the garden a place to connect and learn with your child. Even the youngest child can lay a ruler on the ground to measure a foot between seedlings. Older children might find conducting a litmus test to find the pH levels of your soil fascinating.
Plan your garden with your child. Discuss colors and types of vegetables. Think of a possible theme (the ingredients for their favorite salad or a salsa, for example).
When tending the garden with children, help build that anticipation by talking about what their pallet will experience when trying new, fresh vegetables. Talk about the sweetness or crunch, words that will get their attention.
Bean Pole Teepees and Other Hideouts
Using trellis structures to create a whimsical world in your garden will keep your children coming back for more fun. Use tall branches, stakes or poles to create a teepee structure for trailing vegetables such as pole beans or peas. Make sure there's enough space inside for a child or two (depending on the size of your poles) to fit.
When gardening with young children, allow for space to dig or play with trucks, if possible. Make the garden a place of imagination.
The Right Equipment
Purchase kid-sized tools not only to make it fun but also to protect your child from possibly hurting himself with something too heavy for him to wield properly. No matter what your budget, kid-friendly trowels, rakes, hoes and gloves are abundantly found in stores through the spring and summer months for kids of all ages.
Gardens may include more than just plants. Use a weather vane or hang some aluminum pie tins from string to not only scare away critters but also create a lesson on wind. Stuff and create your own scarecrow for a fun use of the imagination. Build a compost bin to create rich compost for your garden and talk about living green and recycling food scraps and yard waste. A simple rain gauge will show water levels and help determine when watering is needed. Tending to a marigold border will not only add color to your garden but also help to deter rabbits from tender vegetables because of the pungent scent of the annual.