One of the best ways to get a child to try new foods is by getting them involved. You know, asking them to help mix or season, or getting the older kids to grate the cheese or crack and whisk the eggs. Another sure-fire way to get your little one excited about a new ingredient is to have them grow it themselves! Being involved in the whole process, from preparing the soil to planting the seeds and then watering the little plants not only gets the kids excited, but can also helps them learn responsibility and practice staying in routine.
To make things go a little smoother, I’d suggest doing a little research beforehand… Find out what veggies grow well in your area, take into consideration the amount of sun or shade that your garden will be getting, as well as how much rain you get. Perhaps print out a list of some of the veggies you’d like to include in your veggie garden to take with to the plant store, and don’t forget to make sure that you have all the other things you’ll need, such as hand tools, garden mulch and garden decorations like pebbles, mini windmills or trellis.
To maximize the benefits of an activity like this, I’d suggest making it quite a ‘big deal’. Set aside an entire Saturday morning for plant shopping and soil preparation, and get the kids involved in all aspects of both. Remember that brightly colored veggies and flowering herbs look best in a kiddies veggie garden, and that by creating something beautiful and colorful your child will have a greater sense of pride and will take better care of the garden in the long run.
Don’t forget how important location is! Try to locate the garden where it will be easily accessible to the child but in an area that can be viewed by others as well. You and your little one will want to be able to show off all your hard work! Also, make sure that the chosen site gets plenty of sunlight and an ample supply of water.
As for the layout, veggies gardens for kids should allow for imagination. These gardens do not have to be planted in a traditional rectangular plot. Some kids might enjoy a having a selection of pots or containers, and this may be more manageable for first time gardeners. This also creates an opportunity for some artistic expression, as almost anything can be converted to work as a planter… just make sure it can hold enough soil and has enough drainage. Perhaps let your little one pick out the containers and decorate them with paint, colored pebbles or shells. All of this ups the level of pride your child will feel or their veggie garden and will ensure that they stay involved and excited! Alternatively, a small flower bed or selection of flower beds can look just as beautiful. Consider separating plants with colorful or flowering herbs to maximize the visual interest.
Explain to your little ones that gardening is special thing that requires quite a lot of love and care, This will set them up to understand that their veggie garden is going to mean doing a few tasks. To help them understand the importance of keeping up with the normal maintenance of their garden, set up a special area for gardening tools and supplies (just remember to make sure that all products such as fertilizers or weed killers are stored in a different, safe place). Allow them to have their own child-sized equipment such as rakes, hoes, spades and gloves. Other ideas may include large spoons for digging and old measuring cups, bowls or even a small wheelbarrow for harvesting. Let them help with watering, weeding and harvesting, and decide on a routine for these activities, be it a little every day, or slightly more, twice or three times a week.
10 Best Veggies for a Kids Veggie Garden
1. Sugar snap peas. Sweet, crunchy pods that beg to be eaten right off the vine, these little beauties also make a terrific lunchbox snack. Just let the vines flop on the ground, or add a small wooden trellis so they can climb.
2. Lettuce, spinach, and other leafy greens. These are super easy to plant and grow and can thrive even in a pot. Just sprinkle a new line of seeds every two weeks, and you’ll have homegrown salad all season.
4. Carrots. Another quick-grower. The tiny seeds need to be sprinkled carefully, but soon you’ll have real baby carrots, sweet and crunch, and another great option for lunch boxes. The green tops have also been known to help attract certain types of butterflies.
5. Potatoes. Cut into pieces, bury now, and you’re eating new potatoes within a few months. You can buy seed potatoes, which haven’t been treated with growth-retarding chemicals like some supermarket potatoes, but a potato sprouting in the kitchen cupboard should work just fine, too.
6. Green beans. It’s fun to plant the big seeds, and beans are delicious raw or cooked. Bush beans are simplest, but pole beans, which grow up a wooden trellis or tee-pee made of sticks, can add a new dimension to your little one’s veggie garden with some height. Scarlet runner beans have a stronger bean flavor that some kids don’t like, but if you live in the right area they might attract hummingbirds to your garden, and who wouldn’t love that!
7. Cherry tomatoes. Buy a small plant at the local garden store, and you’ll be enjoying beautiful little tomatoes until the frost comes.
8. Pumpkins. They take a bit more space, and you’ll have to wait until August to harvest, but the vines are really do look magical!
9. Sunflowers. Taller than Mom or Dad, or elf-sized mini versions. The seeds can be shaken loose once ready and dried to have as a snack, or can be left in the garden as a treat for the birds.
10. Broccoli. Like I mentioned earlier, you might be surprised to see what kids like when they’ve planted and harvested the crop themselves. Garden broccoli is sweet and tender and the little plants can be bought at most garden stores to make things even easier.
Gardening with kids can be a truly fulfilling experience, and with the right preparation and planning can actually be a wonderfully relaxing family activity. Once the kids get the hang of it, you might even find that the grocery bills go down, and who of us would complain about that, right?!
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