How Vegetable Gardening Benefits Children

My three-year-old son has been gardening since he could walk. I can recall living in the historical district of downtown Phoenix in a 1926 tudor house with blue trim that allowed for oodles of gardening room.

My son loved to hand the germinated plants over to me as I stuffed it in the soft, black soil. Now days he is an avid sprinkler and refers to the spray hose as a “water weasel.”

He seems to be more adventurous when it comes to tasting our garden foods and gardening has taught my youngster to differentiate foods that are healthy from those that are not.

If you think gardening is only an activity for adults, think again. Children can benefit too.

Here is a short list to motivate you and your child (or children) to begin the journey of creating a scrumptious vegetable garden.

My three-year-old gardening in Phoenix. (Photo/Kendra Yost)

My three-year-old gardening in Phoenix. (Photo/Kendra Yost)

Exercise: In America, 1 out of 3 kids is considered overweight or obese, and the number is growing. Gardening motivates children to want to be outside and stay active in a world where quick and easy is protocol for many busy families.

Education: Gardening demonstrations the importance of food with a hands-on-approach and a garden-to-table model. Cultivating teaches children the valuable act of growing nourishment for themselves and others. Children learn the importance of sharing with others and receiving in return.

Enjoy better-tasting food. Fresh is the best. Homegrown produce simply tastes better.

Exploration and Discovery: Tending to a garden allows children to explore and discover insects such as butterflies, pill bugs and worms to excite the senses. Discovery allows young people to learn about the world and how its workings.

Progressive Mindset: Through the gardening process, children can attain an “unwaste” mentality by participating in the compost process along with recycling.

Nutrition (Duh!): Your garden, filled with fruits and vegetables, is significant because it contains the freshest and healthiest food you can eat. Here’s a no brainer: Studies have shown that gardeners eat more fruits and vegetables than their peers and tend to eat healthier.

Food Safety: Our global food marketplace is constantly tainted with recalled foods. When growing your own food organically, food safety worries are put to rest you don’t have to worry about contamination that may have occurred in the production process.

Reduce Your Environmental Impact. Organic gardening (meaning the use of no pesticides and herbicides) relives the earth of air and water pollution.  The use of fossil fuels is reduced due to the unnecessary transportation of global produce to your local supermarket.

Build a Sense of Pride. Gardening is one of the most gratifying activities one can participate in. Witnessing a seed blossom before your eyes is an amazing accomplishment, especially as you enjoy your fresh produce at the dinner table.

Even medical associations are finding the benefits of gardening. Children’s Hospital St. Paul in Minnesota recently transformed its rooftop into a garden.

“Hospitals now are realizing the importance of green space and gardens to help with healing,” said Dr. Bruce Bostrom, a hematologist and oncologist at Children’s. “Just getting out of a clinical setting and into a park-like environment, even for a few minutes, can be therapeutic.” [Source]

Other institutions, such as the New York botanical Garden, find gardening valuable to children and offer engaging activities such as digging for worms, creating a personal garden plot and gardening vegetables, flowers and fresh herbs.

Happy plotting, kiddos.

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