Gardening with Your Kids

The following post is from Shaina of Food for My Family and Olmanson Photography:

gardening with kids
source: Shaina Olmanson | Food for My Family

I happen to know that Mandi is going to talk about cooking with her kids in a week, and while I have shared my personal feelings and a few strategies for doing just that, I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about what comes before the cooking in our home.

We’ve gone over how important I think it is to involve the kids from beginning to end, which means plenty of time spent perusing supermarket aisles and farmers market stands kids right there with me. However, in our home, we view the gardening part as equally important.

But I don’t have space!

I’ve had this problem before, too. We lived in an apartment, and then we moved to a rental property where we didn’t have control over the yard. Still, a few small pots filled with herbs taught the basics of gardening: Seed to plant to food. That is the lesson I’m going for. Where exactly does our food come from?

Why is growing a plant important?

This idea becomes even more important as you live in small spaces where the kids aren’t exposed to it on an annual sort of basis, if ever. I think how lucky my kids are, living near the state university’s farm campus, how a museum down the street serves to show them just how life was like 100 years ago. They are privileged, for sure.

gardening with kids
source: Shaina Olmanson | Food for My Family

Without exposure to the ways in which food is grown and harvested, it is easy for kids to take for granted the work that goes into producing food. Even the act of growing a small pot of rosemary can help to teach them how a plant is a living thing that must be cared for grown before we can pick it and eat something. This small lesson can serve to teach gratitude for the food that sits in front of us, and the act of growing something yourself can help curb those fears of new food.

Will growing our food mean our kids eat everything?!

I regret to tell you the answer is no. However, this process of teaching your children about the food you eat can help to broaden their horizons and make them more receptive of new foods that you might want to introduce them to.

I remember when my eldest was four. She was right at the age where asserting your hatred of certain foods becomes pretty common. Children want to have a voice, and so for Kiera that meant that all flecks of anything on food were “spicy” and not to be eaten. Black pepper? Spicy. Minced parsley? Spicy.

gardening with kids
source: Shaina Olmanson | Food for My Family

It was her exposure to garden herbs that won the spice war, teaching her different fragrances for the different herbs, giving her the responsibility of watering them, having her help stir them into dishes. It was educating her that not all flecks of spice in food equaled spicy on the tongue.

How do I get started?

This process doesn’t have to be difficult. Whatever area you have will work. A small Ikea pot with a bit of potting soil and one solitary herb plant can be a great start to getting your kids growing. If you already have a garden, encourage the kids to pick a single vegetable that they’re responsible for. My kids’ favorites to grow are: tomatoes, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, funny-shaped squash (crooked neck and patty pan). Bring them to the nursery or market to pick out their plant, let them get their hands dirty digging the hole, and teach them how to check to see how wet the dirt should be so they know when to water it.

It is a simple lesson that will pay off in far more ways than one.

Did you garden with your parents growing up? What do you remember about the experience?

Shaina Olmanson is the freelance writer, photographer, and home cook behind Food for My Family. Cooking daily with and for her four kids and husband, Ole, drives her desire to inspire other families to do the same. Shaina is also the author of Desserts in Jars and contributes regularly to a variety of online sites and traditional print magazines.
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