Did you know that 98 percent of kids who grow their own vegetables will actually eat them? That means kids will want to eat peas, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli and maybe even spinach! This is the official word from the American Gardening Association which offers programs to encourage kids to head outdoors and into the garden. .
Gardening is catching on in schools all across the country and that includes a big emphasis in Colorado. Every year, more schools are building gardens on their campuses and using them as an educational opportunity. And much of the produce ends up in the school cafeteria.
If you have children, consider getting them involved in gardening at home as well. Already, kid-sized tools and boots are showing up in garden centers. Helping kids pick out their own properly sized implements will make the process more fun.
Then head over the seed aisle and let them select veggies, herbs and flowers they would like to grow. This kind of involvement is more engaging than handing them your packet of seeds early some Saturday morning when it’s time to plant.
Here are four ways to keep the engagement going:
• Help kids to learn by doing. Even a 3-year-old can tuck some seeds into the soil and will love holding the water wand to sprinkle water over newly-planted seeds. What child doesn’t like to play in the dirt or spray water? Older children can do more – and as the growing season takes off, you can make pulling weeds a game rather than a chore.
• Keep it simple. Kids are most motivated when they grow plants that are easy to grow and that show fast results. Sunflowers and pumpkins, for example, grow quickly and are dramatic in their size and shape. They can be started indoors before it’s time to plant outside. Kids can stand by the window sill and check out the changes as seedlings emerge and become little plants.
• Make it “mine.” Remember those seeds that the little ones selected? Create an area for those plants and allow children have their own group of plants to care for. Having them water and weed their own plants-and pick the harvest later on-imparts pride of ownership.
• Teach value. At harvest time, weigh some of your harvest and write down how many pounds of zucchini, tomatoes or other veggies your young gardener has grown. Then go to the grocery store, find the current price of these items and help them do the math. There’s a good lesson in knowing that you’ve just grown $5 worth green beans!
Gardening is more than just another outdoor activity – though fresh air is always a benefit. Gardening connects us with Mother Nature, involves us in environmental stewardship and is an ongoing lesson in a healthy lifestyle and nutrition. And that applies to grownups as well.