So the sun is shining and Spring is in the air. You’re wondering what you can do to get your children out of the house. Something worthwhile that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Something you can enjoy as a family.
When my children were young, this was the time of year we always started our vegetable garden. We were able to enjoy each others company and decide as a family what we wanted to plant. With every year our gardens became more exciting.
We started with plants like tomatoes and herbs. As my boys grew older, we began planting things based on what we wanted to cook. One year my youngest wanted to grow cucumbers so he could make a giant jar of pickles. Another year we grew tomatoes, cilantro and onions to make salsa. Then we became super creative and grew hot peppers to go with the salsa to make a pot of spicy chili.
From my personal experience, gardening with children is one of the most satisfying thing a parent and child can share together.
Here is why:
It teaches them about nature and how the ecosystem works
What a gift to see a child’s eyes light up with excitement as they learn about how nature works. When they’re young start them gardening with a couple of seeds and a cup of dirt. They learn that with a little bit of attentiveness and nurture tiny plants start to grow.
As children get older, parents can teach how non-living organisms, such as sunshine, water, and weather, all work together for a purpose. Once they have a grasp on that, teach them how microorganisms in the soil have an impact on the plants, just as pollution and chemicals do. By the time your children are young adults, they will have a great understanding of how the world of nature works. And it all starts with one little seed.
* if you’re lucky, when you loosen the soil for planting seeds, you will find earthworms. A perfect opportunity to teach how important the earthworm is to the health of the soil. When we found them, we would carefully dig a little hole and put them back so they could do their magic.
It fosters a sense of responsibility and purpose
When my boys were young, I read a book titled, “Raising Self Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World” by H. Stephen Glenn. In this book, the author speaks of a time when children were required to help out with tending to the farm animals and land to keep the household running. If Billy didn’t milk the cows, Betty wouldn’t have a bottle to drink. At a very young age, children were doing chores that really made a difference. Billy felt accomplished for doing his part feeding the family. Now-a-days, our milk is purchased at the grocery store (unless you are lucky enough to have your own farm) and that sense of purpose has completely changed.
Through gardening, children are able to get a sense of what Billy experienced as a young boy. Imagine your child tending the garden and then imagine the look on his face when he prepares a dinner salad from greens HE harvested. I promise your heart will melt with joy as you watch your child feeling so accomplished and proud.
It promotes self-confidence
Children have a constant stream of media and peer pressure that tells them they need to do this or that to “fit in”. Every where they turn, they are bombarded with commercials, magazines and posters telling them they aren’t good enough. As parents we can combat some of that negativity with positive influences in our home.
Gardening increase self confidence in so many ways.
- It gives them knowledge (and we all know that in knowledge is power!).
- It gives them a sense of purpose.
- Children learn to take pride in their accomplishments.
- They learn to act independently.
- They take on responsibility and feel important.
- They become more excited to accept new challenges and try new things.
It gets children actively involved in healthy eating
When a parent teaches a child how to garden, that child learns the value and health of the veggies. He will want to partake in the consumption.. As a family we would decide what to do with the veggies we grew. We’ve made salsa, pickles, chili, garden salads, homemade stews, and more.
One day my son came to me and asked if he could eat some cherry tomatoes. Don’t ask me why, but without thinking, these words came out of my mouth, “you can have a handful right after you finish your dinner”… He was so excited!!! He grew a little older and realized that tomatoes weren’t a dessert food but what an amazing illustration of how my children perceived their work in the garden!
It creates strong family and teaches everyone to work together
Not only is menu making and cooking in the kitchen a bonus for growing a garden, now you get to add in quality time with your loved ones. Instead of sitting in front of the television on a sunny day, we spent our afternoons in the garden. Getting excited for the anticipated harvest. Learning to be patient together. This is great for teaching children patience in other areas of their life too! (BONUS)
So many summers spent getting dirty with my boys (with the occasional attack of the hose on an unsuspecting mom hahaha.), working as a team and sharing responsibility, learning to appreciate all our hard work and not wasting any of our food.
We were growing watermelons one year and one of our visitors had a toddler who picked our baby watermelon LONG before it was ready. My son immediately said he wanted to eat it!! I cut it open and all that was there was the rind. None of the delicious juicy red watermelon had formed yet. He didn’t care!! We did the work and he was eating the harvest. I watched him eat everything but the tiny little rind. To this day, we laugh at that story!
There you have! My favorite reasons for growing a garden with children.
Here is a terrific site where you can get some fun children’s lessons on the ecosystem and our wonderful earth. Click HERE