Spring brings boundless opportunities to get outside. If you’re looking for a new hobby that the whole family can enjoy, consider planting a garden.
Gardening is associated with positive health benefits such as stress relief and even improved immune function1. Recent studies show that gardening impacts your heart health in more than one way, too. Eating a balanced diet of homegrown fruits and vegetables is an obvious benefit, but did you know that gardening can also decrease your risk of stroke and heart attack by nearly 30%2.
When you garden with children, you aren’t just teaching them about food. You are quite literally planting seeds of imagination. Gardening is stimulating for children and shapes creative and cognitive processes. These types of activities create a dynamic and fun environment for children to grow and play.
What can kids learn in the garden?
If you’re ready to get your hands dirty, consider these 4 tips for a kid-approved garden this year:
Determine where your garden will take root
Determine whether you will nurture an in-ground plot, or build a raised bed. This resource explains the benefits of each.
Kid-approved tip: Allow kids to decorate plant markers with stickers, or other designs. Raised bed gardens are the perfect canvas for a fun design if your kids love to paint!
It’s true! Some plants are more compatible than others. The idea of companion planting has determined the arrangement of many gardens. You will cultivate your garden, but much of the success of a crop depends on its green, leafy neighbor.
Kid-approved tip: Remember your audience! Kids have vivid imaginations so teach them about the garden just like you would tell them about a superhero
during a bedtime story. “Delightful herbs like parsley and dill are friendly and welcome good bugs into the garden, like spiders. Brave herbs like mint are sworn enemies of ants, so they guard the garden against the intruders.”
Find an expert
There are many gardening resources in your community. Local farmers’ markets and plant nurseries are great places to learn more about planting and harvesting your garden.
Kid-approved tip: For some kids, it’s hard to visualize how a tiny seed can make a tall tomato plant. Consider planting both seeds and already-sprouting vegetables in your garden so your kids can see both and not lose interest.
Enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor
Try to plant foods you enjoy. Know when to harvest your garden to guarantee maximum taste.
Kid-approved tip: Let your kids pick fresh foods. Invite them to prepare a meal with you, too. Show them how their seeds have turned into menu items for tonight’s dinner.
Whether your goal is to build a vegetable-packed salad or to create an herb blend for your famous roasted chicken, there are lessons and fun to be found in the garden. When you plant seeds with your children, you are sowing imagination and a lifelong appreciation of fresh fruits and vegetables. Habits like these will positively impact food habits throughout adolescence and into adulthood. And just like that, your garden is more than a source of food and fun, it is a foundation for the future. Happy planting!
Olszak, D. An, S. Zeissig, M. P. Vera, J. Richter, A. Franke, J. N. Glickman, R. Siebert, R. M. Baron, D. L. Kasper, R. S. Blumberg. Microbial Exposure During Early Life Has Persistent Effects on Natural Killer T Cell Function. Science, 2012; DOI: 10.1126/science.1219328
Ekblom-Bak, B. Ekblom, M. Vikstrom, U. de Faire, M.-L. Hellenius. The importance of non-exercise physical activity for cardiovascular health and longevity. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2013; DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2012-092038