6 Reasons to Garden With Your Kids

1. A garden encourages you to spend time together outside

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Plant a garden this summer – if not for yourself, then for your children. There are many ways in which children can pitch in and get excited about growing plants. Whether you dig up the ground, build a raised bed, or fill containers, the act of caring for plants outdoors is wonderfully formative for children. Here are a few reasons why it’s a good idea to garden with kids. Tending a garden is an excellent reason to get out of the house. It requires little but regular care, usually just a few minutes of weeding and watering each day, which is perfect for a small child’s limited attention span. Most kids will jump at the prospect of being told to dig in the dirt, pick weeds, plant bulbs, and soak the earth with a hose.

2. Grow vegetables that your child wants to eat

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Picky eaters are more likely to eat vegetables that they have harvested themselves. They'll become curious about the growing process and want to sample the fruits of their labours. Let your kid choose which vegetables he or she wants to grow, and add a few that you’d like them to try. Go together to buy seeds or seedlings at a local nursery. After planting, watch the parental instincts emerge as your child tries to care for the baby plants.

3. Give kids a sense of purpose

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Kids do well to have responsibility (even if they fight it), and having to perform a simple task like watering the garden on days that it doesn’t rain is good for them. They will also have a great sense of accomplishment once they harvest the vegetables grown in the garden they helped care for. Unlike other household chores, gardening has an edible, tangible result that helps the hard work to make sense. (Cleaning one's room does not provide the same kind of satisfaction!)

4. A garden is an outdoor classroom

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Teach your kids the names of the plants, insects, birds, animals, butterflies, soil and compost that you see on a daily basis while working in the garden. Kids love learning about nature and memorizing facts. From integral earthworms to icky potato beetles, you could be fostering your child’s future love for biology by poking around in the dirt.

5. Grow a healthy mind

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Gardening is so psychologically stimulating that horticultural therapy programs are used in hospitals, domestic abuse shelters, nursing homes, mental health institutions, and prisons. Community gardening is also popular, and even public schools are installing vegetable gardens. This is because gardening makes for happy people and happy land. It teaches kids to become aware of the seasons and what can be grown in a local environment at certain times of the year, instead of taking imported fruits and produce for granted.

6. Gardening is good for the world

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The more people who take responsibility for even a small portion of their food production, the better off we’ll all be. Growing food teaches kids about what sustainable agriculture should look like. Instead of vast mono-crops, kids can learn about the importance of genetic crop diversity. Do your part to conserve heirloom varieties. Try growing unusual varieties of vegetables -- yellow tomatoes, blue carrots, and purple potatoes. Gardening at home also ensures that your food is truly organic.