As summer quickly approaches, it’s a good time to start thinking about activities you can do with your kids that will keep them engaged and active, and keep them from spending all summer watching television or glued to a smartphone.
A great way to keep your child engaged and promote healthy eating all at the same time is by starting a vegetable garden. Multiple studies (here and here) have shown that gardening with kids can lead to healthier eating habits, higher math and science scores, and a renewed passion for learning in general, among other benefits.
Here are some tips for making the most of gardening with your child:
Put the garden in a conspicuous place.
Part of the magic of gardening is watching seeds develop into plants, and eventually into veggies for the dinner table. Place your garden in an area where your child will see it often and will be able to observe their garden’s progress. This will keep your child invested in their garden and excited about the project.
Don’t build a garden for your child; build a garden with your child.
If you build the garden for your child, they’ll miss out on the sense of pride and ownership that comes from building something themselves. Even if your child is not the most helpful, find age-appropriate tasks for them to do to contribute to the process. For example, if your child is younger, you might ask your child to drop seeds in the soil, but if your child is a bit older, their task might be to write the names of the plants you’re growing on popsicle sticks to mark the soil.
Get creative with your choice of veggies.
Don’t just grow the vegetables your child is used to seeing in your kitchen; throw in a new vegetable or two, and use the opportunity to teach your child about the new vegetable, what it looks like when it’s ready to eat, why it’s good for them, and how they might eat it. This will expand their horizons, and we find it’s much easier to get a child to try a new vegetable when they’ve grown it themselves.
Make the eating just as fun as the growing.
Allow your child to pick a few of their vegetables to use as ingredients for dinner, then take them into the kitchen and let them help you prepare it. By the time dinner hits the table, they will have enjoyed the pride of growing the ingredients, the ownership of having picked which ingredients to use, and the satisfaction of helping to make the final dish.
With these tips in mind, enjoy digging in the dirt with your child and growing something more than vegetables: a love of healthy eating that will serve them their whole lives. Bon appetit!