It’s gardening season and it’s one of my favorite times of year. It’s a proven way to get your kids to eat more fruits and vegetables, but an important point is to first get them involved in gardening. And as a mom to two kids, I am constantly trying to come up with new ways to encourage my kids to eat more fruits and vegetables through gardening. My kids each have their own likes and dislikes and each with a different willingness to try new things. But a way to expand their likes and dislikes is to get them in the garden. Here are some ways to start:
- Grow a garden together. My kids get excited about gardening because I get excited about gardening. Kids will learn more from what you do than what you say to do. And if you “do” gardening, they are going to want to do that with you too. It’s never too late or early to start with your kids. When my own kids were one year old, they were outside with me and as they grew, they wanted to be in the garden with me. I still have a picture of my daughter “planting” her favorite vegetable in the garden at two years old.
- Design your garden together. What are your kids into? Legos, paper and crayons, cutting and designing with paper, or even computer games? All of those methods can be used to design a garden. The key is to find what they are interested in and use that as a platform to work together. If you want to see how my kids used Legos to design our garden, I recently wrote about it on my blog. Also, go to your local library and find kid-friendly gardening books with pictures. One of my favorites is the American Grown book by First Lady Michelle Obama. Using visuals can be very inspiring to anyone, especially children.
- How do you figure out what to grow? You don’t need to start with a large garden, but when you are thinking about gardening, it’s a perfect time to take your kids with you to the local nursery and pick out seeds to grow together. Start with foods they like to eat and grow ingredients from them, but also encourage them to try one new vegetable in the garden as an experiment. And if they are old enough, let them come up with a plan for how to prepare it as a meal.
One vegetable that has surprised my kids is Swiss chard. It’s a dark, leafy green and a member of the beet family and it is packed with potassium for healthy hearts and blood pressure. We have tried it in cheese quesadillas (just chop up the leaves and sprinkle over the cheese) as well Fruity Chardy Salad. Both went over very well in our house – my kids were both amazed that they actually liked it! But they would not have tried if we would not have planted it and we would not have planted it had I not suggested that we try a new vegetable in the garden. It all starts with a little encouragement.
Fruity Chardy Salad
Estimated time: 15 minutes
- 6-8 Swiss chard leaves, torn
- 8 fresh strawberries, sliced
- 1/3 of a fresh cantaloupe, peeled and diced
- 2 tablespoons raspberry vinaigrette
- Layer chard, strawberries and cantaloupe cubes on four separate plates.
- Drizzle salad dressing over the top of the salads.
Here are some ways to involve your child in cooking this recipe:
- Slice strawberries with plastic knife.
- Slice cantaloupe with plastic knife.
- Wash chard and dry it.
- Tear chard.
- Tossing ingredients together.
What can you get out and grow with your family?
Jen Haugen, RD, LD
Registered Dietitian and Mom to Riley and Emma
Check out her blog at http://jenhaugenrd.wordpress.com