Encourage Kids to Eat More Fruits & Veggies by Planting a Garden
Looking for a way to get your kids to eat more healthy fruits and vegetables? The answer may be as close as your own backyard. Involving your children in planting a small garden is a fun way to spend time together as a family and encourage them to eat more fruits and vegetables, or even to try some types that they normally won’t eat. If you’d like to try this project, the time to plan is now.
When deciding which fruits and vegetables to plant there are two things to think about, what you (and your kids) love to eat, and what will grow in your area. Most seed catalogs feature a map that will let you know when to plant in different areas of the country. Some seed packets have a similar map on the back of the package.
Don’t let living in an apartment or having only a small yard keep you from gardening. Many fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs adapt well to container gardening on a balcony or small patio. Tomatoes and bell peppers grow well in pots. Growing just a planter of vegetables rather than a large garden is also a great option for those with little time to devote to the project.
Sunlight, water, and soil quality are all things to consider when planting a garden for the first time. Note how long your gardening space receives direct sun. The amount of sunlight determines what kinds of fruits and vegetables you can grow. Think about water availability and how much rain your garden spot will receive.
Now the fun stuff: selecting your plants. Start kids off with something that’s easy to grow, like peas or potatoes. Small successes go a long way toward developing an interest in gardening in a child. Choose fruits and vegetables that grow and yield produce quickly to keep younger children interested.
Base your garden design on the fruits and vegetables that your family enjoys the most, and then add in one or two items you haven’t tried before. Have you ever eaten parsnips? If you can grow carrots, you can grow parsnips, and having them growing in your own backyard encourages you to cook them. Getting kids to try the parsnips they grew themselves can lead to them asking for parsnips they next time they see them in the produce aisle.
Let children help you plant seeds or put them in charge of a young plant you get from a nursery or garden supply center. This will make them feel invested in the plants and will help you persuade them to eat the fruits (and veggies!) of their labors later on.
Follow the directions on seed packets for proper plant development. To obtain the proper spacing, you many need to thin seedlings when plants put on a few leaves. Vegetables need plenty of root space to be highly productive. If the plants are crowded, they won’t produce their best possible yield. If plants need cages, stakes or other supports, add them while plants are small to avoid root damage later.
Growing fruits and vegetables is a great way to get children interested in eating them, and it’s a fun activity the whole family can do together. A child that begins eating more fruits and veggies because they helped to grow them will often be more open to eating additional fruits and vegetables from the store too. Offer encouragement to kids at every stage of the growing process so that they are excited about eating their very own fruits & veggies right after they’re picked.
Inexpensive fruit and vegetable seeds are easy to find this time of year. The Fruits & Veggies—More Matters® Victory Garden Seed Pouch is available online at www.pbhcatalog.com. While at the website, check out the book Growing Vegetable Soup. It tells the story of a father and child who share the joys of planting, watering, and growing seeds in their garden and includes a recipe for vegetable soup. Reading this book with them is a great way to keep kids interested in their gardens during the early growing stages when they can’t see progress as quickly as they may like. It’s available in both English and Spanish.
This month we have two recipes for you that can be made using the delicious fruits & veggies from your garden, Garden Goodies Salad and Roasted Corn Salsa. They are both full of nutrition and that fresh-picked taste that makes all the effort of growing a garden worthwhile!
Parents interested in learning more about Fruits & Veggies—More Matters, tips for getting kids to eat fruits and vegetables, and delicious recipe ideas for dishes that children will willingly eat, are encouraged to visit the Fruits & Veggies-More Matters website, www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org. The Food Champs website, www.foodchamps.org, is a safe, educational, and fun interactive website where kids can play games, fill in coloring pages, and enjoy other online activities all aimed at educating them about fruits and vegetables and encouraging them to eat healthy foods.
Richard “RJ” Jaramillo, is the Founder of SingleDad.com,
a website and social media resource dedicated to single parenting and specifically for the newly divorced, re-married, widowed and single Father with children.
RJ is self employed, entrepreneur living in San Diego and a father of three children. The mission of SingleDad is to help the community of Single Parents
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