How To Get Your Kids Gardening: Creating Excitement
Maybe you’re one of those rare parents or grandparents whose kids are already excited about being outdoors, digging in the dirt, and doing manual labor instead of playing video games or texting their friends. If so, you probably don’t need this guide.
However, did you know that an increasing number of children, especially in urban areas, don’t know how milk or eggs are produced, or where they come from?
We are living in a time when a loss of connection to the earth and how our food is produced is epidemic. Maybe you are reading this and you feel like you could use a few refreshers.
I get it – adults work hard. Most parents work a full-time job and come home tired. There isn’t much time for dinner together, let alone a dinner you grew yourself.
But let me ask you this: do you want to be healthier? Do you need to lose some weight? Are your kids complaining about being bored? Do you get apprehensive about how much screen time your kids have every day?
Maybe, like me, you know you need a little less screen time yourself.
Gardening is the Answer
Okay, maybe gardening isn’t the answer to everything, but it can be an answer to some of these unhealthy patterns.
Whether you have kids or grandkids or you have some neighbor kids or friends’ kids you can borrow, let me inspire you to think seriously about making growing things a part of your life this year.
Gardening almost always involves being outside – even if you’re gardening from your balcony. We know that being around green, growing things lowers your stress level, encourages you to relax, and provides free anger management and sensory stimulation that is lacking when you’re indoors and around screens all the time.
However, did you know that digging in the dirt and eating home-grown vegetables from healthy soil can improve your immune system?
Healthy dirt contains healthy bacteria, parasites, and viruses that build up your immune system. Growing children especially benefit from regular contact with good dirt.
Gardening can also raise your self-esteem and that of your children! To make a successful garden, you have to plan, and you have to spend time each day caring for your growing plants.
But what a reward at the end!
You and your kids have the potential to literally reap your rewards and feel a sense of accomplishment together as you eat the produce you grew. A garden, like a child, isn’t something you can produce fully developed in a day, but it’s worth the time and effort you spend. The lessons you learn and the time you spend together along the way are all part of the beauty.
Kids Gardening: Creating Interest
I don’t want to say that you have to create interest where there is none – although you may feel hopeless about your particular kid’s interest in gardening.
I believe the desire to care for and create something is innate within all people and that it will be easier than you think to get your kids interested in gardening.
If they are still young, you are in luck. It may take almost no convincing to get your kids outside. They probably want to be with you!
There is a world of books, documentaries, craft projects and science experiments related to gardening that might do the trick.
Read on for some great ideas to get your kids’ gardening passion flowing.
Start With Food
There are so many ways to get your kids’ passion flowing. Just think about it for a minute: your passion for gardening probably began with a fantastic meal or a taste of produce from someone’s garden that was so much better than anything you could get at the store. Your kids can have that same experience as easily and quickly as a short field trip.
You can start this adventure at home by watching an episode of The British Baking Show or one of the many cooking shows together on Netflix.
Make a reservation at a five-star restaurant to eat one of the dishes you have just seen made. The owner of one of my local bakeries attended chef school. She’s an excellent resource for even the pickiest of eaters. Everyone loves cookies and cake. Find out if you have a local bakery that offers classes and plan to attend one with your kids.
Another idea is to watch an episode of a travel and food show – like “Parts Unknown” with the late Anthony Bourdain (make sure it’s appropriate for children) – and find an ethnic restaurant near you to sample food your kids have never eaten before.
Many other cultures cook with a greater variety of vegetables and spices than Americans: Thai, Indian, Mediterranean, Vietnamese, Chinese, etc. In any case, if you can help your kids have a transcendent experience of food, it will be that much easier to get them interested in how their food is grown.
Other Good Ideas for Food Production Exposure
Find a local farmers market and take your kids for a Saturday or Sunday stroll through. Let them taste all the samples – local honey, freshly baked rolls, marinated meats – and touch and see the selection of produce they may not see at the grocery store.
Enroll in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) for this coming growing season. At my local CSA, you can choose from four differently-priced packages designed for people with and without time to help farm, and there is a program for kids who come with their parents who are working on the farm.
Tour a dairy farm. Let kids see how cows are milked, how milk is processed, and dairy products are made. If you don’t live close enough to drive to a working farm, consider watching one of the many documentaries about food production together:
More Kids Gardening Resources
There are so many good books out there for gardening inspiration for kids and adults. Here are a few of the best:
- The Curious Garden – a kids picture storybook tells the true story of the revitalization of Brooklyn through gardening.
- Earthworms – A fascinating study on the lives of earthworms.
- Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots – This book by master gardener Sharon Lovejoy is packed with activities, information and gardening plans to get your kids excited about gardening. Learn how to make a pizza garden!
- The Julia Rothman Collection – Farm Anatomy, Nature Anatomy, Food Anatomy – these books are excellent for young and old. The food book tells a story in picture form of how agriculture developed in world history.
- Gardening Lab For Kids: This book is full of science experiments all about gardening to do with young kids.
- Seed Catalogues!! Order a few seed catalogs to see which kinds of colorful and delicious-looking veggies strike your fancy. Take these snow-day opportunities to plan out your summer garden with your kids.
If even one of these ideas resonates with you, as I hope it will, I hope you will use your creativity and see where the idea takes you and your family, friends or neighbors.
Remember, you can start very small with gardening and still reap a reward at the end!