Build a Family Garden
While school gardens are growing in districts across the country, parents can embrace the love for nature and fresh produce by getting dirty in their own backyard.
A family garden may not look the same as a traditional vegetable garden. In order to invite youngsters to participate and get excited about discovering the wonders of plants, a garden must allow for some freedom to play around. I certainly try to keep my kids away from digging out our carefully planted seeds or hurting the fragile stems that have sprouted. But I have also made sure they have a section to play as they wish and can move things around. What fun is it otherwise, right?
Did you know that gardening can...
Provide a sense of place
Promote healthy eating habits
Help build social skills
Enhance academic achievement
Gardening provides direct contact with nature and a means for children to learn the role of the sun, rain, soil, and other natural elements in sustaining life. There are lessons in math, science, history and social studies to be learned in a school garden. How many inches did it rain? Did a seed sprout out? How many seeds per row? In a garden, children learn through direct experience and experimentation, enhancing and reinforcing lessons that may have already been taught in a traditional classroom.
Studies around the benefits of school gardens have shown positive outcomes in science education and food habits. As a parent of a once picky eater, I can speak for the latter. We began a family garden in 2019, mostly as a recreational and educational way to make use of a small space in our condo building’s backyard. The unintended consequences, such as my children asking to try parsley and cilantro and actually eating foods rich in herbs have been a pleasant surprise.
"Experiences in the garden infinitely improve student's knowledge about and attitudes toward eating vegetables and also increase their consumption of these foods."
When we grow and nurture something from the size of a seed, it is only natural that we will care for it due to the emotional attachment that has developed. When we first began growing herbs on our window silt, my son would rush every morning and measure how much the stem grew. He was gentle and remembered to water it daily. I am not sure his care and attention would be the same had we just bought the plant at a supermarket! References
Tips for building a family garden
Space for play
Provide a space in the garden where kids can play freely without risk of hurting the seeds or plants you are growing. This can be a sandbox or a dirt box where kids can experiment with dirt and water, and maybe even find a worm.
Add a mud kitchen
Whether you add it as part of your garden or simply into your backyard, a mud kitchen is sure to bring little ones together with tons of imaginative play. The combinations of some realistic toys such as mixing bowls, spoons, spatulas, and whiskers has turned our garden into a magical kitchen.
With so many options, it can get tricky to pick and choose which plants to start a garden with. Herbs can be a great starting point since they can offer an interesting variety of fragrances, textures, and tastes.