Summer affords us the perfect opportunity to slow down and reconnect: with the environment, with our bodies and with our kids. One activity that promotes a sense of connection, in all three of these areas, is gardening. Gardening as a family is a fun activity that encourages teamwork, patience and healthy eating. With only a bit of effort and planning, planting and tending your own family garden can make for both a healthier summer, and a lifetime of memories.
Planting the Seed
If you want your entire family to begin eating healthier, planting your own vegetable garden is an excellent way of getting started. Especially for young kids, growing a vegetable garden presents the perfect opportunity to better understand the healthy foods that they will be eating. By explaining that the family garden will translate directly into food, at lunch and dinner times, you are sure to get your young ones excited about their new summer venture.
Selecting a Space
A simple tactic for getting your children involved in the family garden is to allow them to have some control over it. Encourage your children to choose the land on which the garden will be planted. Explain the basics about space: your garden will need to be both well-lit and removed from any large shrubs or trees. Barring this, let them weigh their options and come to you with their ultimate decision.
Tending the Ground
You might think that children get more excited about planting the produce than by tending the soil in which it is planted. However, do not underestimate the amusement children derive from getting dirty. Buying a set of child-friendly tools need not be too pricey, and will make the children feel authoritative and in control of the work that they do. The basics of gardening maintenance—including watering and weeding—are skills that your children can one day pass on to children of their own.
Choosing Your Foods
A fun and fresh weekend activity is selecting the fruits and vegetables that you most enjoy as a family. Go to the grocery store, or local farmer’s market, and peruse the produce aisles. Talk about what vegetables you most enjoy and how you might actually incorporate them into your meals. Once you have done so, you can research what vegetables are most compatible with the garden you are working with. If you do not have enough space—or money—prioritize the fruits and vegetables that you enjoy the most and start a wish list for next summer. This will sustain your family’s excitement about gardening over the cold, winter months.
Perhaps the most fruitful aspect of the gardening process is getting to pick and eat what you have been working so hard to grow. Once you have inspected your garden to ensure that its contents are meal-worthy, bring your children out to inspect all of their hard work. Allow them to pick their vegetables of choice and wash them in the kitchen sink. Afterwards, you can guide them through a safe way of preparing them!
This summer, consider gardening as a way of bonding with your family. Not only will it promote healthy eating, but it will also afford you quality time spent outdoors together. How delicious is that!