Since Addie was born, we have had a vegetable garden in our yard. Each year we grow tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, peppers, and a variety of herbs. However, since moving last summer, we now have a bigger yard, so we are expanding! In addition to the strawberries, blueberries, rhubarb and pumpkins planted by the previous owners, we are going to plant our usual fare and try some new vegetables as well, including carrots, beets, cauliflower, radishes, squash, and corn.
We are excited to build our new raised beds, fill them will soil and our seedlings, and watch our garden grow!
Have you been thinking about starting a garden with the kids? Here are nine great reasons why you should!
1. Kids of All Ages Can Help in the Garden
Unlike many activities, gardening is not limited to a particular age group. Older kids can help plan and design the garden, prepare the soil, plant seeds, weed, water, and harvest the vegetables. Younger kids can do most, if not all of these garden chores as well. Even toddlers can help plant seeds and water growing vegetables. Gardening is truly an activity the entire family can enjoy.
2. Makes Family Memories
Part of the motivation for gardening with Addison is my experience gardening with my mom. Though the memories are hazy, (I can’t remember how many years we had a garden), I do remember the fun we had, and the excitement of watching our own vegetables grow in our little backyard in the city. Spending time in the garden with your kids will strengthen family bonds, and build treasured memories.
3. Gets Them Outdoors
Who has time to watch tv or play video games when there is a garden to tend? Each summer Addie loves to explore her garden, observing what is growing. As she spends time watering plants and harvesting vegetables, her body is active and soaking in Vitamin D. As she gets older and takes on more physical tasks, such as hauling compost, raking, and weeding, she will get even more exercise while gardening!
4. Teaches Them About Nutrition and Sustainability
Gardening provides a great introduction to eating healthy foods, and how vegetables are grown. Kids will learn (and taste!) the difference between homegrown vegetables and mass-farmed store-bought vegetables.
As kids get older, you can engage them in discussions about GMOs and sustainability, and how growing your own food helps reduce your carbon footprint.
5. Teaches Them Patience and Responsibility
Vegetables do not grow overnight. When kids garden, they learn to be patient as the watch the plants transform from seeds into seedlings, then into plants, and finally vegetables. Of course, younger kids may find it hard to refrain from picking unripe vegetables. When I was little, I surprised my mom by picking all the tomatoes in our garden. All of the green tomatoes. My mom was not pleased, and I cried when she told me the tomatoes might not ripen. She put them all in a brown paper bag in the pantry, and some did turn red, though I learned the hard lesson of patience. Addie learned the same lesson when she picked many, many, green tomatoes two summers ago. She, too, has since learned to be patient with our vegetables.
As kids care for the garden, they learn responsibility. Unwatered plants wilt. Unweeded gardens become overrun. Younger kids should be given easy tasks, such as helping to water the garden using a small watering can or spray bottle, while older kids can take on the responsibility of maintaining the garden each day.
6. Teaches Them About Science and the Environment
Watching the process of a seed transform into a plant, and finally sprout vegetables, provides the perfect opportunity for kids to learn about germination. As the sun shines, you can teach them how plants convert light into fuel through photosynthesis. Transplanting seedlings allows kids to look at roots and learn how they absorb water. While digging in the dirt, kids will find earthworms, a discovery which can be turned into a opportunity to teach them about how worms support healthy gardens. These are just some of the many lessons kids will learn as they encounter bugs and watch their garden grow.
7. Teaches Them About Sharing and Community
Every year we grow way too many tomatoes, and we end up giving them away to family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors. Not surprisingly, no one ever seems to mind the gift of homegrown veggies. When your kids watch you sharing the fruits of your labor, they learn the lessons of generosity and community building. In short, they learn to be good citizens.
There is nothing like the taste of fresh produce straight from the garden. Many kids balk when parents serve them vegetables. Yet when little ones help grow their own veggies, they are much more likely to eat them. These days, Addie will pluck ripe cherry tomatoes right from their stems and pop them into her mouth.
9. It’s Fun!
Kids love being outdoors, covered in dirt and mud and worms. Gardens are a great way to channel their natural curiosity into a fun activity! So what are you waiting for? Now is the perfect time to get planting!