When my daughter and I were getting ready to plant the garden, I thought about how a garden has much value on many levels. When children are involved with gardening, much learning can take place in this outdoor classroom. Giving children a small plot to care for provides an opportunity for them to take responsibility and follow through on taking care of it.
Researchers have shown that children who help grow vegetables are more likely to eat them. For example, planting a “theme garden,” such as a salsa garden with tomatoes, peppers, onions and cilantro, may entice children to eat more salsa and fewer chips.
Gardening can boost our physical activity level. As we stretch, bend and lift to plant, weed and water our plants, we are accumulating moderate physical activity. Adults should accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, while children should accumulate at least 60 minutes, on five or more days each week.
“Mom, look at this tiny worm and what kind of bug is this?” my daughter asked as we worked together.
“That’s a nice worm and I can’t remember what kind of bug that is,” I said. With all the questions she was asking during our gardening adventure, I was thinking I’d need to consult some of our Extension literature in areas outside of my own. Through gardening, kids and adults can learn about horticulture, nutrition and entomology.
As we planted flowers and vegetables, my daughter was snapping photos for her 4-H projects. She was learning about photography as well as plants. Later this summer, I will teach her about drying and freezing foods.
As well as these benefits, fruits and vegetables add colour to our plates and to our landscapes. They also provide disease-fighting phytochemicals (natural plant chemicals) and antioxidants in our diet.
– Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, L.R.D., is a North Dakota State
University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.