Kids Who Garden, Eat Vegetables

By Crystal Stevens

Children love to learn. They love feeling a sense of purpose, a sense of accomplishment and they love more than anything to make their loved ones proud. Our children have the farm life; they have fields to run in, an endless supply of mud puddles to jump in, dirt piles to dig in and an unlimited supply of bite size veggies to snack on in the you-pick field. But nothing pleases them more than a task they can accomplish easily, or a mundane garden task made into a fun game such as the great weeding race, or the pea harvesting championship.

Without these imaginative games, they get bored pretty easily. We are busy working in the fields and more times than not, they are with us in the field. Our daughter loves to help. She is 3 years old and can already identify over 3 dozen vegetable plants, a dozen wild edibles and even how to identify plantain leaf to soothe insect bites. It is pretty amazing to watch her lead other kids through the fields, pointing out all the crops and filling her basket to the brim with delicious fruits and vegetables. Our children have gardening engrained in the very essence of their being. They love vegetables, especially when they have helped to plant the seeds, water, weed, harvest and wash them. They love to help cook dinner. Because they are so connected to their food, they truly enjoy eating everything on their plates. It’s astounding. I come across so many little ones that are such picky eaters. The solution is simple. Start small with a five gallon bucket of dirt mixed with compost. Be sure the pot gets good drainage and that it is placed in an area of your yard that gets at least 6 hours of sun per day. Let them pick out their own seeds. Things you could plant now include green beans, squash, cucumber, lettuce, kale, broccoli, cabbage, rainbow chard, carrots, and herbs. If you are using a five gallon planter, choose 2 varieties of seeds. Tomatoes and peppers will also thrive. Check your local nursery for established tomato and pepper plants. If you are doing a raised bed, you could follow square-foot gardening techniques to maximize the amount of plants in your garden bed. Get the kids involved. Let them play in the dirt, sprinkle the seeds, dig the holes, transplant, water with a hose or watering can, pull the weeds and harvest the bounty. Let them help wash the harvest and cook the meals. Let them thumb through your stacks of cook books to choose their own recipe. Kids who garden… eat vegetables.

Additional fun gardening ideas for kids:

Sprout Houses – Let them design a house on construction paper. Cut a square out of the center (as a viewing window) Let them place 3 wet paper towels and 3 green bean seeds into a sandwich size Ziploc bag. Staple the top of the bag to the top of the cut out square so that the growth of their sprouts can be observed from the viewing window.

Seed Bombs for Pollinators – All you need is 6 cups of clay-like mud or dirt and 3 packets of pollinator attracting flower seeds. Have the children mix the mud with the flower seeds and roll them into balls. Let them dry overnight. They can launch them with a slingshot or just throw them in the back yard. Place a target in the area you wish for them to grow.

Visit a Farm (farms that don’t use pesticides are best so that the children can eat from the fields) several farms in the area have open farm days. We welcome homeschool groups and school groups to La Vista throughout the year. www.LaVistaCSA.org

Painting Pots – This classic craft never fails to get kids excited about gardening. It is fun and easy and takes very little time.

Egg Shell Sprouts – Plant quick sprouting seeds such as chia, broccoli or radish into halves of eggshells filled with dirt. Let the kids make silly faces on the egg shells. They can decorate bodies with toilet paper rolls and place the egg shell on top as the head. The sprouts will be silly hair that the children can cut with scissors and eat on their salads.

Garden Maps – Give the children a piece of graph paper, a ruler, a pencil and markers and watch their creativity sprout! They love designing their own gardens. Their imagination runs wild as they create dragon shaped gardens or gardens with their favorite vegetables that spell their name. It’s a great way to discover their favorite vegetables.

Crystal Stevens is a regular contributor to The Healthy Planet magazine. She and her family run LaVista CSA Farm in Godfrey Illinois. Please visit www.LaVistaCSA.org.