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Letting Your Kids Pick
Probably the single most useful - and obvious - tip for getting your kids interested in growing their own food is to allow them to pick things they would like to grow.
For many adult gardeners, much of the enjoyment comes from planning what to do grow, so if you let your children in the process, they would more likely feel they have a real stake in what’s going on. Give them their say and you might be amazed at the ideas they’ll come up with and what it appealing for them and the reasons.
By growing your own food is another good way to stimulate your child’s interest in gardening and cooking. Your children will be amazed by planting their own fruit or vegetable in your own garden, preparing the soil, planting the seeds, watching it germinate, taking care of the plants as it grows and then going to the garden and picking it to eat for dinner. There are many educational and health benefits for the whole family, as well as the satisfaction of seeing the whole garden project through –from beginning to end, especially if the end product tastes really good.
If this is your children's first attempt at growing their own food, try to aim for rapid results – especially when they are quite young – to keep their interest and excitement a quick reward. Plant some fast-producing crop like snow peas and beans, carrots, radishes.They're curious, and like to learn by doing, and as you know they love to play in the dirt.
By working in a garden, your child can experience the satisfaction that comes from caring for something that lives and over time they are observing the cycle of life firsthand.
Gardening also gives your children a chance to learn an important life skill, one that is unfortunately overlooked in most standard school curriculums. Gardening is also a great way to teach environmental knowledge and awareness by exploring nature.
Our children and our grandchildren have been involved with gardening from an early age, and it was exciting to watch their interest and their self-esteem grow as their gardening efforts yielded food for the dinner table. Although there are many crops suitable for your young gardener, here are some of our favorites, which are relatively easy to grow, have short growing seasons and are fun to harvest.
Favorites for Kids
Tomatoes or Cherry Tomatoes
Children Love Ownership
Let them have their own garden beds. May it be a raised bed or a container or a ground plot, be sure to give each child his or her own separate plot. Keep it small, very small for young kids. Put their plots right in the middle of the action, with the best soil and light. Set them up for success.
It is important to engage them throughout the entire process, from planting the seed to placing on the table. Children learn better when they understand the reason and context of their activity. They will also learn that gardening can be fun, and far more than idle play; they are contributing to the family well-being and especially in these hard economical times that they are helping the family. Besides planting and nurturing their garden beds, try to be sure they alone do the harvesting and preparation of their crop for the table, no matter how modest the offering.
A good lesson is always start from seeds. While it may be a convenient shortcut to buy starters, children will learn more by seeing the growing process as it begins with seeds. The care given to sprouting seeds and nurturing the young seedling are a valuable part of the gardening experience as well as how to nurture any living thing.
Show off their work. When your friends some to visit make sure to point out the children's beds. Take pictures of their harvest and send it to their grandparents, aunts and uncles. The more attention given to their work is the best motivator for children to stay involved with a project.
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