Over the past several years as a pediatrician I have grown more committed to teaching my patients and their families about the importance of a healthy diet in preventing illness. This year, I started my own pediatrics practice to be able to fully embrace that commitment.
In addition to an onsite teaching kitchen for showing families how to cook, my practice, “Yum Pediatrics“ this spring will debut an instructional garden for families to make the connection between growing good food and eating it. Our outdoor space will feature a landscape of edibles like blueberry bushes, raised beds for vegetables, apple trees, and more!
From gardening as a child to gardening with my own kids and even building a garden at their school, I have learned how enriching the experience of gardening with kids can be. Over the next five posts I will share with you how to start a garden successfully and what to grow with children. To start, here are five invaluable lessons your kids will learn when you start a garden with them.
1. Growing Food is Fun and Nutritious!
Research shows that kids who start a garden have stronger preferences for fruits and vegetables, and have a better understanding of nutrition concepts. After spending all summer growing a cucumber, your child will be excited to take a bite!
2. Eating Fresh Food Tastes Great!
You can’t get more “local” than your own backyard. Food grown in your garden and picked fresh will be more nutrient-packed and will taste amazing. By the end of the summer you will have a little “locavore” who appreciates the superior taste of locally-grown produce!
3. Gardening Builds the Mind
One study showed that third to fifth-graders who participated in gardening projects scored higher in science achievement scores than those who did not. There are dozens, even hundreds of scientific concepts you can discuss with your kids when planting and caring for a garden.
Plan to answer questions like: How does the plant get water? Why do they need sun? How do the worms help the plants? Soon you will be talking about chlorophyll, photosynthesis and more! Supplement the experience of gardening with books about plants, or keep a garden journal with drawings or pictures of the foods they are growing. There are great online activities and coloring pages on sites like nourishinteractive.com that can enhance what they learn in the garden.
4. Planning Makes Perfect!
Work with kids to plan your garden. Browse through seed catalogs or visit a garden store, and talk to the experts there about how to grow produce in your area. Ask your kids about what they would like to grow and make a plan. Kids will see how careful planning, research, and being organized will result in a successful and productive garden.
5. Taking care of the Earth is Important!
Take time to show kids that growing their own food requires less energy to produce and transport the food we eat, which is good for the planet. Composting leftovers and garden scraps shows how their plants can be recycled and used to nurture the soil. Explain that the compost they produce will make next year’s garden healthier and the food even yummier!