For many of us, gardening is a rite of Spring. Beds are turned and seedlings are planted in the cool damp earth. As the new garden fills with tender young green plants, we envision a summer filled with flowers, fruits and vegetables.
Gardening with kids can be a truly amazing experience. It is an easy, fun and educational way to spend time together. Gardening incorporates a hands-on activity with developing skills, knowledge and understanding of nutrition, agriculture and the environment. Studies have even shown that by involving kids in gardening, you can improve their diets. When summer comes and the vegetables are ready to eat, the kids can help you plan meals around their garden. Choosing healthy recipes and involving the kids to make good choices will instill nutritional habits that last a lifetime.
Some area schools now have gardens and neighbors banding together to create community gardens. Whether it’s in your backyard, at the school or in a shared space, gardening provides a happy and healthy social gathering place for all.
Here are 5 tips for happy gardening with your kids:
1). Ask for help and advice if you are new to gardening; talk to your local Master Gardeners or horticulture club.
2). Keep your garden project child focused and child-led. Keep it simple, colorful and easy to walk around in.
3). If your garden produces an overabundance of vegetables, have your kids go with you to the local food bank to donate some of the produce. It teaches them about the world around them.
4). Be sure to have a reliable source of water, watering cans or colorful hoses and small gardening tools for the kids to use.
5). Work with your children to learn how to prepare new snacks and family meals around your garden veggies.
Reading is another way to teach your kids about gardening and eating well. We recommend these books for you and your family:
1. Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert
2. Eating the Alphabet. Fruits and Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert
3. The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin
4. Blue Potatoes, Orange Tomatoes: How to Grow a Rainbow Garden by Roselind Creasy
We wish all of you a great gardening experience! If you have a family or community garden send us pictures this summer so we can show you off to all of our readers!
 Morris J, Koumjian K, Briggs M, Zidenberg-Cherr S, Nutrition to Grow On: A Garden-Enhanced Nutrition Education Curriculum for Upper-Elementary Schoolchildren. J Am Diet Assoc. 2002; 102:91-93