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Gardening with Kids: Learning as they Grow

Provided by the staff of the Delta Garden Study at the Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute

Right outside your door, in a container on your porch, in a raised bed by your garage, or in a large plot of land in your backyard lies a whole world of discoveries, just waiting for you and your children to unearth it. Literally unearth it!

Planting a garden and growing fruits and vegetables can be such a rewarding time for you and your family. We know that when kids are part of the process of growing their own food they are more willing to taste it. What better way to get a child interested in eating a crisp cucumber than for them to plant the seed, water it, tend to it and watch it grow?

There are really three easy rules to remember when planting a garden with your children.

  • Determine the where.
  • Determine the what.
  • Determine the why.

Where are you able to grow your garden? Do you have a sunny place on your porch, balcony or patio that you can have a container or two? Do you have a little bit larger place where you can make a couple of square foot gardens? Do you have more space where you can till up a little land and make a larger plot? Is there a community garden close by that you have access to? Allow your children to walk with you, pointing out different spaces and discussing why that might or might not be a good place to grow. Talk about sunlight, access to water, shade and so on. Make it a science lesson and let them be part of the decision process!

What will you grow? Once you know your space, you can determine what you are able to grow. Many things like cucumbers, pole beans and even eggplant and squash can be grown vertically by using a trellising system. Tomatoes and peppers are great to grow in a container. Discuss with your child what they like to eat, what they would like to try and maybe some things they have never heard of before. Some kids are mesmerized by the beautiful colors of Rainbow Swiss Chard and moms will be very happy to see them crunching on the yellow, red and orange nutrient dense stalks. Most seed packages and plants that are sold have planting instructions for our growing zone (which is 7 for most of Arkansas). There are also worlds of information online about how and when to plant.

Why are you growing food? This is the most important one by far. There are so many reasons to grow a garden with your child. You can determine to teach your child about good nutrition and cooking. You can teach your little ones about where their food comes from and why it is important for us to learn to grow it ourselves. Let your little scientist chart growth and observe insect activity. Allow your little artist to sketch a picture of the blossoming tomato. Talk with your history buff about the history of agriculture in the state. Let your little chef plan a garden fresh meal to serve to the rest of the family.

The possibilities are endless, the teaching moments are countless and there is nothing better than watching your little one overcome with excitement as they pick their first tomato of the season from the plant they grew and happily devour it.

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