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Growing your own food can be a big step in learning to eat well early in life. Instilling healthy eating habits in kids can be tricky, but if you can teach them to love gardening, your chances of getting your picky eater to eat their veggies will increase. With a few tips, you can get your child to enjoy themselves in the garden. Check out the list below for some ideas on giving your little one a green thumb.
Let Them Choose
Letting your kids pick what to plant can help keep them interested. They get to choose something and watch how it changes as they take care of it. The cause and effect part of gardening can be very rewarding for children. Get garden tools that are suited to their small hands and let them participate in the whole process of creating and maintaining a garden.
Give Them Their Own Area
Dedicating a small section of the garden to your child can make gardening feel like a special activity for them. Having their own area to work in helps them feel important and included. Giving them their own garden space also grants a little room for creativity, because they can set up their garden just how they like it.
Let Them Decorate
Plain flower pots look better with a coat of paint, and your child will enjoy making something colorful. Allow your child as much creative freedom as possible to decorate the garden as they wish. Let them paint pots or draw signs to identify plants. Anything they can do to personalize the garden will keep them content.
Let Them Get Dirty
Kids love to get their hands dirty. Letting them go wild in the garden may be the secret to keeping your little helper entertained. Let them dig their own holes and plant their own seeds. Getting their hands in the dirt is something almost no kid can resist. Let your child water the garden sometimes, as well. Who doesn’t love playing with the garden hose?
Be aware though; May and June can be rainy months, and if your yard is in a low-lying area, small puddles can quickly turn into a muddy pond. If you find yourself in this situation it may be helpful to remove water with a pump or at least redistribute it to other areas of your yard. Your white carpet will thank you later.
Plant Something Fun
Kids are all about their senses. No matter what it is, they want to touch it, smell it or put it in their mouths. The garden can be the perfect place to explore your senses. Plant things that appeal to all the ways your kids interact with the world. Colorful flowers give them something to look at. Wooly plants such as lamb’s ear are interesting to feel. Marigold and mint are highly scented plants. Lettuce and radishes will sprout quickly and show your kid that their hard work is paying off.
OK, this probably isn’t the best way to get or keep your kids in the garden, but a reward system can make them more interested in their new role of farmer. You can create a garden chore chart and reward them for completing all their tasks. The reward should be something small but exciting. Getting to pick a rental movie, having 10 extra minutes of playtime or a small treat are some good possible rewards. Personalize the chart and reward system to your child and they might eventually start volunteering to garden.
Don’t make gardening too stressful for your little helper. When offering advice on an activity, be specific but not overly strict. Rows don’t need to be planted perfectly straight. Let your kids have a little wiggle room and allow them to garden in a carefree way. Never cry over spilled seed and always remember that clothes – and children – are washable.
Getting your child to help in the garden can start a lifelong love of healthy food. The physical activity is just one reason to get outside, and the time you spend together is irreplaceable. Even if your garden isn’t the most successful, you’re getting plenty of practice and your child is learning valuable skills they can carry with them their whole life.
Megan Wild is a gardener who is the process of cultivating her first succulent garden. She loves visiting local floral nurseries and picking out plants that she struggles to fit into her yard. Find her tweeting home and garden inspiration @Megan_Wild.