How does your garden grow?

Jack Pfirman, 2, works on his garden.

In our fast-paced lives of rushing the kids off to school, pick ups and drop offs, and barely making it home in time for a peaceful, much less healthful dinner, it seems that most families are desperate for an activity that forces them to slow down.

For parents struggling to find ways to encourage family time, gardening can be an important tool.

Don’t let the idea overwhelm you.

Instead, imagine an activity that encourages kids to stop and smell the roses, or should I say, the sun-ripened tomatoes – an activity that will perhaps inspire an interest in eating more vegetables and spending more time outside.

 Creating space in your life for an edible garden requires only as much time as you’re willing to invest.

The internet, of course, can tell you what you need to build a raised bed but if you’re not the handy type, kits are available online with everything you need to create your own raised bed paradise.

Or you can start with what you have. A large pot and a lot of sunshine is all you need for sweet cherry tomatoes. Plants like zucchini and herbs are fairly easy to grow without a ton of fuss, and their quick growth cycles and imposing size will impress even the most skeptical child.

The much larger lesson we learn from a backyard garden is how it can affect not only your child’s body, but their brain and soul.

 Life can get hectic, and spending time outdoors is like a reset button for the soul.

As much as we would rather spend the weekend with our feet up on the couch, we cannot deny how good we feel after a walk to the park.

Imagine what your kids feel when they spend some quality time outside with their parents. An activity like gardening also encourages conversation between you and your child. They’ll be interested to know why plants need sun and water and will find great interest in the life cycle of their plants – how the flower on the tomato plant is what ultimately becomes the tomato.

What better way to explore our environment than to get our hands dirty with our children, exploring the soil, worms, bugs and microorganisms that give the soil life. Older kids can take a more active roll in the creation of the garden, while the little ones are perfectly content sticking their hands in the dirt and watering their plants.

 Once you harvest your produce (if your sweet, warm tomatoes ever makes it into the house) think of the conversations that can happen while preparing dinner with the food that your child helped grow.

When children participate in gardening, the veggies they are inspired to eat will no doubt have a positive effect on their body and their overall relationship to food.

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