The garden is a wonderful place for the young generation to explore, learn, and play. Gardening opens a whole new world to children, its interesting to children of all ages and all the family can be involved together. Gardening provides children with fresh air, exercise and an understanding of the wonder of living things and the environment. The added bonus is that children are more likely to eat vegetables if they’ve grown them!
Grow a garden—and your children are more likely to eat it up! According to study published in American Family Physician (July 15, 2007) children who were almost always served fruits and vegetables grown at home were more than twice as likely to eat five servings a day compared with children who rarely or never ate produce that was grown at home.
Additionally the study found a wider selection of fruits and vegetables were available to children who ate homegrown foods most of the time. Therefore, the authors recommended that schools grow their own gardens and create educational programs to teach children about sources of locally grown produce, which may be an easy way to encourage children to eat healthier. (J Am Diet Assoc, April 2007).
Getting children interested in gardening can be as simple as giving them some quick sprouting seeds and a small patch of soil to work with. Children don’t need to produce a massive crop to find gardening rewarding. If you don’t have a garden - small crops in containers work just as well, or even the bottom on milk bottles!
Before you plant, dig the soil over well to make it easy for children to dig and rake. Let them prepare the soil by adding in plenty of compost, peat or well rotted organic material. Now you’re ready for planting...
When deciding what to plant, think about a selection of seasonal, quick maturing, hardy and easy to grow plants (vegetables, fruit, and herbs). Remember that children may have short attention spans so plant things that grow quickly so your child can see the progress. For success, make sure it is a fertile soil patch in a sheltered but sunny spot.
Choose vegetables that your children are both familiar with but also a few that your kids won’t usually eat! Children are more likely to taste vegetables if they’ve grown them themselves. A garden also provides an opportunity to mix it up a bit too – try fruit and veges you don’t normally come across in the supermarket; for instance the novelty of purple or white carrots…or organic veges of all sorts of shapes/sizes.
Some good options to try in the garden include:
Vegetables - Carrots, Radishes, Lettuce, Beans, Peas, Courgettes, Pumpkins, Tomatoes, cauliflower, Lettuce, Carrot, Tomatoes, Pumpkin, Capsicum
Fruit - Strawberries, Watermelons, and Avocados.
Herbs and seeds - Basil, Thyme, Parsley, Rosemary, Chives, bean sprouts, mung beans and Mint
Radishes, beans and sunflowers are great as they sprout quickly and are easy for children to recognise.
Tasty plants are a great motivator - strawberries and sugar snap peas are good examples. They are healthy snacks and easy to grow.
Try growing mustard and cress on the windowsill on a sheet of kitchen towel – remember to keep it damp at all times and you’ll soon see the seeds sprouting!
Go with the flow:
Give your child choice and responsibility when it comes to their garden – give them the tools, seeds, patch of soil or containers and then take a hands off approach. Let them plant, water, feed and weed. Support them as required but try not to take over, encourage them to be creative and don’t worry if things are not perfect. Children will get a huge sense of achievement if they grow the vegetables all by themselves.
Give your child the tools to do the job. Yum Yum Kids has a fantastic range of children’s gardening tools – which are especially designed for little ones and make the entire experience more fun. Help your children find information and research about gardening from the internet or library and empower them to learn and experiment with their garden.
If you don’t want your children running around in, or ingesting pesticides and sprays – keep it organic. We are firm believers in organic gardening – it’s not only healthier but it’s better for the environment. There is a huge range of organic alternatives to managing pests…and it’s a great learning experience for children to observe the natural relationship between plants and their environment (pests, disease etc).
Children love spending time with their parents or grandparents….and time in the garden is much more fun when you do it together. Children can share their experiences, successes and you may be surprised to find that you too will learn something from your children. The time spent in the garden is one of the best ways to spend quality time with your children….and get to know each other better.
The garden provides a wealth of learning experiences for children. Seasons, plant types, tastes, textures, colours, growth, the mutualistic relationships in the garden….the potential is huge and there are great gardening activities for every age.
More fun gardening activities:
Fill a stocking with soil (potting mix or sawdust are just as good) and sprinkle with wheat seeds. Tie stocking with an elastic band so you make a head shape….or hedgehog (get creative….whichever you prefer). Leave enough stocking under the elastic band to be able to sit the Wheat man in a jar and have the stocking dangling in water. Then wait and watch – the learning potential is huge. You can teach your child the importance of keeping plants watered for growth, you can measure the growth of the wheat/hair, cut the ‘hair’ (wheat), decorate the Wheat man with a face. The potential is endless and a heap of fun!!
To get the kids really interested, turn activities into a game. Who can grow the tallest beans? Whose tomato plants will have the most fruit? This will really motivate your children and they love to compete against their parents’ plants and each other.
Simple to make and fun to look at. Nail two boards of wood together in a cross shape and plant it in the garden. Then dress the scarecrow with old clothes such as a straw hat, shirt and overalls - make it fun and different. It will look great, be fun to build and it’s an organic way to keep the birds off your garden.
Why not use the petals from any edible flowers (roses, nasturtiums, violets) to decorate cakes, biscuits or to garnish your dinner plates. Simply have the children pick healthy, unblemished petals, dip them in room temperature water, shake the excess off gently, and sprinkle with caster sugar. These look fabulous and are fun for your children to make.
Provide the children with paper, crayons, pens, and pencils and allow them to create a record of their gardening experiences. The children record their garden activities throughout the year. They can write the size and colour of each plant, or can include pressed flowers, a rain chart, a drawing of their garden, the successes and plants that haven’t thrived.
Pressing flowers is as simple as having the children pick any flowers or foliage they like. Then lay the flowers in a single layer in an old book (telephone books are great). Weight the book down with some old bricks or another heavy object. In about a week they are ready to use.
For drying flowers, pick some flowers, wrap an elastic band around the bunch, and hang upside down from the ceiling. Once the flowers are dry or pressed, children can use them in flower arrangements, in collages or to make gifts…be creative.
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