When it comes to feeding your kids the best, the freshest, and the most local food available, you can’t get any better (or cheaper) than what you grow in your own back yard! Some kids will enjoy spending time in the garden with you, but will they eat what they grow? We have a few tips for not only diving into gardening with your kids, but also, how to get the kids to eat what they’ve grown.
This summer we have spent a lot of time in our garden. I mean A LOT. Now that our kids are getting old enough to participate, it has been such a rewarding experience. They have been invested in every phase of the garden – planting, weeding, and harvesting. They were so excited when the first tiny seedlings were popping up. And they have loved being able to pick things fresh from the garden and eat them right there. We have talked a lot about where food comes from, and how you can use that food. We have talked about why fruits and vegetables are so good for you and have been able to use them in a variety of ways. Even though growing a garden requires a lot of work – it is such a fun family experience and is so worth it!
1) Grow what they know
The other day my 3 year old wanted a snack. So I told her that she could have anything as long as it included a fruit or vegetable. So she said ‘Ok mom, I will be right back’. A few minutes later I hear knocking on my back door. I opened it and this is what I saw.
She said ‘Mom, I want to have carrots and hummus so I went and picked some from the garden’. I’m not sure who was more happy; Me because I was so proud of her, or her because she was so excited to eat the carrots. Because our kids are already familiar with carrots, and they know they like them with hummus, carrots was a natural thing to add to the garden. If we grew Brussels sprouts, and they’ve never eaten those before, it would not have been something she would have picked up from the garden and brought inside to eat. She wouldn’t know what to do with it!
2) Have a Recipe in Mind
Start with the recipe and work backwards. We went to a church activity where they served a sunflower sprout spread! We needed to sprout some sunflower seeds in order to make it, so we started growing them right away! The kids were diligent in watering, rinsing, and growing these sunflowers. What’s great about sprouts, is your harvest arrives in just a few days, and then you can make your tasty dish!
3) Create an Educational Challenge
Herbs can be grown any time of the year! We love them because they don’t take up much space, and you can put them in your window sill for easy access. In an attempt to teach my kids about how important herbs are in their diet, we decided to let the kids grow some themselves, while learning about them along the way. It wasn’t just a lesson in gardening, but we issued a challenge to the kids. They had to:
- Choose the herb
- Plant it
- Water it
- Teach us how to use it
- Make a meal with it!
My kids chose basil, oregano, and cilantro. Each have healthful properties they had to learn about, and then we worked together to find a dish they could make that included their own herbs.
They loved the challenge! After they grew their herbs, they each made a meal for the family, beginning to end!
Maybe you need to start with the fruit! It’s easy to get the kids on board with big, beautiful berries, or taking them to a ‘you-pick’ apple orchard. They may just want to eat the fruit fresh, but you can also:
- Juice the fruit and drink it!
- Add your fruit to smoothies
- Dry the fruit in a dehydrator
- Make a fruit salad
- Make your fruit into popsicles or ice cream!
5) Include your harvest in your meals daily
And finally, as your kids begin to see what they’ve grown in your meals daily, it becomes a natural part of their world. We have some romaine lettuce in our garden right now. The kids know we have salad most nights of the week for dinner, so it’s natural for them to expect our romaine from our garden will come back to the table each and every night until it stops growing. When you consistently serve your produce, rather than plant it and forget about it, over time, there will be less complaints, and more familiarity. This doesn’t happen overnight of course. It takes time for your garden produce to be a natural part of your environment. So don’t give up!
This comment from gardening.org sums up beautifully the importance of kids being a part of the gardening (as well as the eating) process!
Gardening helps children to understand and explore the natural world, as well as learn first-hand the benefits of growing, harvesting, and eating healthy foods. It’s called the ‘people-plant connection’, and every child deserves an opportunity to have access to this relationship.
No activity better links young people to food and nature than gardening. The garden experience bonds youngsters to the cycles of life and teaches them to understand where their food comes from. Is there any greater satisfaction – or “greener” activity – a child can experience than smelling a flower from his or her own garden, plucking a carrot from the ground, or digging new potatoes from warm soil?
Amy and Natalie blog at Super Healthy Kids in order to help parents find more ways to include fruits and veggies in their families meals! Check out their recipes, meal plans, products and more to start your family on the path to healthier eating!
Image by Sandrine Hudgens at creoleartphotography.com