Family Gardens....Learn, Nourish, Bond, and Relax Together
Family gardening is a great way to spend quality time with your kids while connecting with nature. Sunshine, physical activity and immersion in green space has both physical and mental health benefits. There are many repetitive movements involved with gardening that are considered low impact exercise and can help you keep limber. Gardening can ease stress and improve your mood. Gardening may have a calming effect on children as well. According to researchers, gardening activities may reduce ADHD symptoms in children. Young children are eager to get involved. They can dig with small shovels, plant seeds, water, pull weeds and pick the veggies when they are ready. Often, I am sitting in the garden with my hands in the dirt and my kids are playing all around me, sometimes helping, sometimes searching for worms, or maybe just chatting with me. These are quiet moments I look forward to each day.
Involving the kids in the garden, is a great way to get kids excited about vegetables. Kids love to plant and watch their food grow. This is an opportunity to teach children where their foods come from and have a discussion about whole foods versus processed foods. After investing weeks of care for their plants, they may be more willing try them. I place my little one in charge of watering and picking tomatoes (her least favorite vegetable). After caring for them all last summer, she was curious enough to want to taste the difference between the yellow and the red tomatoes. She decided that she preferred the yellow cherries. Success! She was a yellow tomato eater for the rest of the summer.
You get to eat what you sew. Grow organically and you can feel good about putting pesticide free produce on the table. Not only are you skipping the pesticide residues, but pesticide free produce have more micronutrients. This is because untreated produce is forced to develop its own natural protective mechanisms against pests which results in higher levels of phytochemicals (natural anti-oxidants that can help lower risk for heart disease and cancer). Home grown veggies are among the healthiest foods you can eat. With literally thousands of micro-nutrients and fiber, there is nothing better you can put on your plates. You’ll soon also find that home grown veggies can be much tastier than store bought veggies because they are picked at the peak of ripeness and have developed full flavor.
If you are inexperienced at gardening, you can start small. Many veggies can be grown in containers. This is a great option for those low on garden space. You will learn as you grow. I started my gardening journey with one single tomato plant in a container about 5 years ago. Every year, I’ve experimented with new veggies and expanded my garden. I learn a little more each year and I now have two raised beds with over 10 varieties of veggies, blueberry bushes, fruit trees and containers filled with a variety of herbs.
Not sure how to get started? There is no shortage of free gardening instructions on the internet or your local library. University of Missouri Extension has published a lovely manual called “Grow Eat Grow — A Seasonal and Simple Guide to Gardening and Cooking with Kids” that can be purchased at: http://extension.missouri.edu/p/MP922