By Emma Nelson
The time of rebirth, Spring is the season of sowing. Considering planting a garden this year may give you more than just homegrown delicious foods. Growing an edible garden with your child may be a great way to teach them new skills, learn about nature and science, and get them to appreciate and enjoy healthy, fresh foods. For those who do not garden, it may seem like a complicated task. However, gardening can be easier than you think. Starting with a small garden may be good for beginners and there are many resources to help along the way.
Having your child help you grow a garden may teach them more than you think. They will learn about food and how it grows. Most children may think that food comes from the grocery store, even in cans and packages. Teaching them how foods grow in the soil from seeds to plants is an invaluable life lesson. They will learn the responsibility for taking care of a plant, and how it needs water, sunlight, and room to grow. Their self-confidence will also increase while watching their efforts grow into their goals. Children may be more willing to eating meals when they participate in the preparation. This could also apply to their participation in growing a garden.
Gardening is also a great source of physical outdoor activity. The National Wildlife Foundation website has listed many studies that show what the outdoors can do for children. Spending time outdoors increases your child’s Vitamin D absorption, a nutrient key in protecting heart and bone health as well as diabetes. Many children lack this nutrient from spending too much time indoors with electronics. Being outside also improves your child vision development, particularly distance vision, decreasing their chance of nearsightedness.
Studies also show that schools that teach environmental education score higher on standardized tests in math, reading, writing and listening, and can also increase their critical thinking skills. Lastly, studies also show that children’s emotions improve in the outdoor setting. Stress levels decrease with the sight of green, and social interactions are enhanced, as well as adding value to your community and other close relationships.
Another study by Britain’s Royal Horticulture Society found that learning about gardening boosts children’s development. It makes them happier, confident and resilient. Growing a garden with your child is a great way to not only spend time outdoors, but to educate them on food. Childhood obesity and diabetes is a growing problem in America, and growing a garden will help them develop healthy habits.
I encourage everyone to try to grow something. It is a luxury to have a large and fruitful edible garden, however it may not be realistic to most. For those who do not have enough time to grow a full on garden, there are easier options. Buying baby plants at home and garden stores decreases the work, but still allows your to grow a plant at home. Pre-planted tomato plants can be transferred to a pot at home.
Lastly, a home garden is great for the environment. Growing foods in your own home is the most sustainable way to get food. Practicing this will teach your child about sustainable food practices, and help them implement these practices for the future generations.
I spent part of my summers on Vancouver Island, where my friends had a large garden in their back yard. I remember spending many hours out in the garden with Bethany, picking fresh strawberries, tomatoes and peas off the vine. That is the most nutritious way for Bethany to eat and it is helping her develop healthy eating habits for a long, healthy life.