Kids and gardens – as a mom and a nutritionist, I love when these two worlds collide! I look forward to this time of the year when we can begin planning our garden as a family. I believe that talking to kids about food and how it grows is one of the best ways we can teach our children to have an appreciation and flavour for real food. Real food is found growing on a tree, in the garden, grazing in a field or swimming in the ocean. Real food is not often found in boxes or packages. It is up to us to teach our children how to tell the difference. One of the best ways to teach this important lesson is to grow some food as a family. You don’t even need to have an actual garden plot in the backyard to be able to have your own harvest. Many people grow their produce on balconies or decks in large pots and boxes with much success.
Neat things happen in dirt. Starting when my children were about three years old, one of their ‘jobs’ was to look for worms as we dug up the soil and prepared it for planting. They were fascinated by worms. We would collect them in pails and watch them wiggle. My boys began learning about the importance of earthworms to the health of our garden and how to be kind to other living creatures. After the worm excavation, the boys would take turns planting the seeds, row by row. Each day after we planted our seeds, there was much anticipation to run out to the garden and check to see if anything had grown yet. Here they began learning about how our seeds needed water and sun to grow. As the plants began to mature and produce tomatoes, peas and beans, the boys learned what real food tastes like and to value the work that goes into helping plants grow. They also learned patience by discovering what tomatoes taste like when we don’t wait long enough for it to fully ripen!
As a mom, I learned that children have a greater capacity for understanding the world around them than I had previously given them credit for. I also learned that my children felt valued when they were able to help. They loved watering the garden independently with their little watering cans or being sent out to the garden to collect carrots for dinner. I also discovered that some of the best photo opportunities for a mom with a regular old point and shoot camera was in the garden. Since this happens to be a photographer’s blog, I thought I would share that some of my most favourite photos of my children are from our gardening activities. The children were often lost in wonder and I was able to capture the beauty of the moment with little effort.
I encourage you to give gardening a try with your family. Some of the easiest things to grow are cherry tomatoes and peas if you are just starting out. The time commitment is minimal and the plants are fairly easy to maintain. A few years ago, I began ordering seeds from Hawthorne Farm Organic Seeds located in Palmerston. They have a great selection and offer speedy delivery. This year we will be planting beets, spinach, peas, kale, lettuce, pumpkin, tomatoes and even trying our hand at quinoa! Happy gardening!