It’s time to get outside and get your hands dirty.
Getting the kids headed outdoors can be a challenge, especially when competing with TV shows, video games, computers and the like. We all know that playing outdoors is an excellent way for kids to get rid of some of that energy, and working outdoors — even better.
Starting a garden with your children can be a magical experience. You will spend quality time together focusing on reaching a common goal, but the benefits don’t stop there.
Here’s 4 reasons to turn off the electronics, and get a bit more sunshine.
1. Nature is a classroom
Plants are a great tool for introducing your kids to science. While gardening together, you can demonstrate how seeds grow into plants and explain how food can be produced from these tiny life forms. Connecting the relationship between seeds and food is an excellent way to expand a child’s knowledge of the world. They will also discover how birds, bugs, and other creatures benefit the environment and ecosystems.
Lessons and experiments can be tailored to your child’s age, with older children able to grasp more in-depth concepts. Teach your middle schooler how blossoms get pollinated and the beginning stages of creating fruits and vegetables. Teenagers will get a kick out of testing the soil to find the pH level and experimenting with additives to produce optimal plant growth. (Let’s face it, kids love dirt!)
2. Nutritious foods abound
Science isn’t the only subject that Mother Nature teaches flawlessly. Growing a garden provides ample opportunities to discuss the guidelines of nutritious food and practice home economic-type skills. Does your child have an interest in cooking or baking? Have them harvest their crops and create a healthy side dish or full meal using their hard-earned produce.
Planting vegetables that your children may not have eaten before encourages them to try new things and expand their palate. If they have refused to eat certain veggies, perhaps growing them will entice them to give them another try. For example, green beans, peas, and carrots are all vegetables that most kids will have seen on their dinner plates a time or two. Consider growing brussels sprouts, tomatoes and squash for a more well-founded diet.
If you are new to gardening and looking for an easy-growing vegetable, lettuce is the perfect option. It is quick to sprout making it a painless wait for those little ones hoping for immediate results. For a fast-growing fruit, try planting variations of berries, such as flavorful strawberries or juicy blackberries in the early stages of summer. These berries are harder to find in the store or are quite expensive, making growing them a great option during peak seasons.
Be prepared that the berries may never make it to the kitchen! (Hey, at least you’ll know they’re getting their daily allowance of fruit.)
3. Lessons on responsibility
Just like humans, plants need water, food, and care to make sure that they reach their maximum potential. Reminding children to water the plants, check for pests and ensure plants are receiving necessary sunlight or shade is an excellent way to teach them how to care about the world around them.
Pulling weeds is one of those jobs no one wants to do, yet it’s an essential part of growing a bountiful harvest. Consider creating a chart together that aids in reminding them when it’s time to water and feed the plants. Chat with them about weather patterns and how to be aware of their environment so they’ll know how to adjust their care schedule accordingly.
4. Mistakes make room for creativity
Sure, you’ll want to grow a beautiful garden that produces plenty of food and thrives throughout the changing seasons. However, sometimes the most significant lessons from gardening come when things don’t go quite as planned.
There may be a plant that doesn’t do well or a rogue frost that kills all the tomatoes. A family pet may eat the berries, or a destructive pest may munch on a line of sprouted lettuce (squirrels are notorious for this). Exposing your children to these common garden mishaps is a great way to teach them about disappointment, resilience, and cultivating creative solutions for common problems. Sometimes things in life don’t always go the way we planned, and we have to try again.
Allowing your children to share in the failures can make the final harvest that much sweeter. Picking a carrot from the soil will help them appreciate their food and give them a sense of accomplishment. Sharing their fruits and vegetables with friends and family members will also help them feel like an essential part of the community, all benefiting their mental health and well-being.
There are plenty of bonuses to gardening with your children… but the best one?
Instead of allowing them to become couch potatoes you’ll be teaching them how to plant potatoes… and a lot more.