There’s nothing quite like letting a child grow their own vegetables to encourage a fussy eater to try new foods. Kids love to get out in the garden and plant their own veggies (preferably getting as dirty as possible in the process). The only frustration that you might encounter is that seeing results can be a bit of a waiting game, especially for those kids who plant seeds in the morning and expect the fruits of their labor to be ready for consumption within just a few hours! Here’s our top tips for growing vegetables with kids.
What you’ll need …
- Seeds are the starting point for any green fingered adventure. No really! If money is tight, there are numerous ways to get your hands on free vegetable seeds. Just be sure to involve your kids as this will make the whole thing seem even more exciting.
- You’ll also want to get hold of some kid friendly gardening tools. The grown up versions are just too heavy for little hands, not to mention potentially very dangerous.
- A dedicated area of the garden just for them. That is unless you could live with tiny hands pulling up your prize radishes before they’re ready to go and tiny (but surprisingly heavy feet) stomping all over your baby lettuces.
What you should grow …
As mentioned kids like nothing better than instant gratification. There’s not a whole lot of that around in the pursuit of gardening. Although you might very well derive a sense of inner satisfaction from seeing a freshly laid row of seeds, kids often fail to see the attraction. The next best thing to instant gratification is perhaps continual gratification, so draw yourself up a schedule of what is going to ready first and plant accordingly. Once you’ve been going at it for a while, you should be able to come up with a schedule that yields regular results.
- 1. Cress. We all know cress is not the most exciting thing in the world, but it grows super fast and because of that it’s always a great place to start. Nothing else is going to give you something that’s ready to eat in around a week, plus kids can grow funny cress hair in broken egg cups. What’s not to love?
- 2. Beans. Another thing that gives kids those quick results they yearn for is beans. They’ll love making a little “tee pee” using bamboo stakes tied together in a pyramid shape. The vine will start to grow within about ten days. It can be fun for kids to watch how quickly the vine shoots up (measure every few days to monitor progress), not to mention the possibility of them starring in their very own version of Jack and the Beanstalk.
- 3. Cherry tomatoes. Nothing says instant gratification than a food you can eat right off the plant. Go for a variety of different colors to up the fun stakes and without too much delay your kids can start enjoying these sweet, healthy snacks. Just don’t be under any kind of illusion that even one of the cherry tomatoes will reach the kitchen.
- 4. Potatoes. Growing potatoes can be immense fun with children since when it comes to harvesting time it can rather feel like digging for buried treasure. “I don’t like digging for treasure” said no child ever! It’s undoubtedly a lot of fun, but you must always make sure that children don’t eat the toxic leaves, sprouts, and fruit stems of the plant. For this reason, unless supervision is guaranteed, save the potato growing for older children.
- 5. Pumpkins. What child would ever pass up the chance of growing their very own Jack O Lantern? Not many, that’s for sure! We love the tip provided by Erica over at Northwest Edible Life who advises that a child’s name carved into the green skin of a softball sized pumpkin will scar over and retain the carving as it grows to maturity. The result is rather fabulous personalized pumpkins.
- Why not try introducing your children to the delights of growing their own vegetables? It may or may not solve a fussy eating issue, but even if it doesn’t, at least you will have both had fun trying. Isn’t that what parenting is all about?
Linda Forshaw is mum to five year old Freya. As well as being a regular contributor to college resource site Degree Jungle, Linda is a full time writer and blogger specializing in education, social media, and entrepreneurship. Contact her on Twitter @seelindaplay