Wednesday, May 22

SNACK TIME gardening this summer

Give the gift of gardening this summer by introducing your child to a fun activity that can last all summer long and beyond. Let your children be dazzled by dirt and critters, inspired as seeds sprout and vegetables and fragrant herbs grow.
Benefits of Gardening
Tending to a garden, including regular watering, checking for growth, removing harmful insects, etc. can foster independence and responsibility. Allowing the child to select their own seeds or plant teaches them about expression.
Master gardeners know that exposure to gardening also shows kids the importance of food and healthy eating, as well as caring for their environment. Gardening can be a great way for children to expand their food choices since kids are more likely to eat something they have grown.
A trip to the local nursery to pick out seeds and a child’s very own gloves and tools can delight with anticipation.  Seed packets usually include instructions for caring for the plant, giving young gardeners an opportunity to practice their reading skills, too.
Kids love using their hands to create things. It can be as simple as one plant in a single pot or a full designated garden onsite. Decide on where you will plant- directly in the ground, on raised beds or in containers.
Growing tomatoes, green beans, strawberries or sunflowers are popular and easy options.
Theme gardens are fun too. You could create theme gardens with foods kids like. For example, if they like pizza, have them plant tomatoes, basil, oregano and peppers. Or stimulate their imagination by planning a fairy garden. Or plant a “hidden treasure garden” by harvesting root plants such as carrots or potatoes or radishes.
It’s also a great way to elevate a child’s self esteem. There are many benefits to gardening at home, school or as part of a community project.
Preparing the soil, planting the seeds, watching the first sign of life instills a sense of wonder and connection with the soil and plants that nourish them. Give your children an activity that will give them inspiration and a sense of accomplishment all summer long.
For tips on making gardening a family activity refer to the resources below.
Books:  "We Grew It, Let's Eat It!" (Tenley Circle Press, $15) and "Dig, Plant, Grow: The Kids Guide to Gardening," (Cool Springs Press, $16)
For nutrition education printouts for preschool and elementary school children:
Contributed by Leslie K. Kay-Getzinger, MS, RD, Regional Dietitian for Nutrition Management Services Company

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