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What your kids can learn from the garden

Gardens are good for families

Nurture your child's appreciation for healthy, fresh-picked foods by getting their hands in the dirt. Short on outdoor space? Don't fret -- a garden need not be large to nurture a child's interest in gardening and the environment.

Gardening is fun and good for kids

Playing in the dirt may be what first attracts children to gardening, but the process itself can hold their interest, says Evelyn Neier, Kansas Junior Master Gardener coordinator.

"Children typically like to eat vegetables they grow and are proud to offer them to others. Being able to come to the table and say 'I grew that lettuce' can be a real boost to a child's self esteem," said Neier, who also is a Kansas State University Research and Extension 4-H youth development specialist.

Benefits of gardening

A backyard vegetable garden makes it easy to incorporate fresh vegetables into healthy meals and snacks, says Neier, who identified still more benefits from gardening as a family:
  • Planting seeds and watching them grow helps children learn about the growth process, the environment and the food they eat.
  • Weeding and watering a garden encourages physical activity and teaches responsibility.
  • Working side by side allows family members, including parents and grandparents, to develop new appreciation - and respect - for each other that will strengthen their relationship in and out of the garden. "Like preparing a favorite family recipe, gardening tips often are handed down from generation to generation," Neier adds.
  • Sharing homegrown produce with others -- neighbors or a community food bank, for example -- helps children practice responsible citizenship.
  • Rain or shine, count on the weather to offer lessons on the effects of sunshine, a gentle rain versus a thunderstorm, windstorm, hail and drought.

Start with a small garden in the backyard or even a garden planter in the house to nurture your child's interest in getting in the dirt and to bring your family the many benefits growing a garden can provide.

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