Tending food gardens can be a fun and educational way to teach kids life lessons about planning ahead, something that can be difficult for kids (and even adults). Food gardens teach kids to think about whether the temperature will go up or down, pests that come with different temperatures, differences in rainfall over the seasons, pruning just the right amount, crop rotation, and enough thinking ahead to fill volumes of gardening books. Preparing a garden for changes of the seasons is a hands-on way for kids to feel connected to and learn about environmental changes all around them, changes that they might never have thought about in relation to plants or how food grows had they not had a food garden.
In tending a garden, kids learn in real time what it takes for food to grow, which, hopefully, instills in them a sense of respect for food in a way that is hard to convey when we only get our food from the grocery store. They learn that their hard work will pay off not today, not tomorrow, and not even next week, but in the future, which teaches, in the most natural, fulfilling, and fun way, delayed gratification. They learn that a seed will take all the time it needs, and there is no rushing those little seeds. And they learn that failure is also an important part of gardening--not all of our efforts are rewarded with what we had hoped for, and sometimes, we have to begin again. These life lessons in food are gifts that may shape how our kids think about food for the rest of their lives.
Giving kids the chance to tend a garden teaches them that work, collaboration, and patience yields joy. I have never seen a more satisfied face than when our kids would pick tomatoes right off the vines of our tomato plants and eat them. And I have seen some of our picky eaters try foods out of our garden that they would otherwise NEVER eat. Our kids have watched our little plants grow and grow, and their investment makes them open to trying new things, together. Today our kids had the chance to harvest some of our crops, including lettuce, arugula, okra, purple bell peppers, scarlet runner beans, thyme, oregano, and a few carrots (that were not yet ready :)). If you garden with your school or with your kids at home, please share your gardening stories with us; we would love to hear them!
Best salad ever!