A friend mentioned last week she was putting together an order to an online seed merchant and it sent me off to look through seed catalogs to find interesting veggies I could grow myself this year. Certainly homegrown vegetables are good for you. Now a new study from the journal Horticultural Technology points out that the gardening itself is good for kids, even before they eat what they’ve grown.
Researchers measured children’s level of activity as they performed 10 ordinary gardening tasks in 5-minute sessions, separated by 5-minute rest times. This meant that the children worked for 50 minutes, five minutes at a time, in digging, raking, weeding, mulching, hoeing, sowing seeds, harvesting, watering, mixing growing medium, and planting transplants. Using technology to measure children’s heart rate, oxygen use, and energy expenditure, scientists were able to categorize digging and raking as “high-intensity” activities, and the eight other tasks as being of moderate intensity.
Growing a garden – even in small time slots – is good for kids. It uses their muscles, builds strength and coordination, and gets them outdoors.
Of course, growing a garden also provides experience in how plants grow, in measuring and marking off a garden plot, in decision making of all sorts, including what to grow and whether the garden needs more water, and in the sorts of creatures who live in the soil and fly by overhead. Growing a garden makes a person smarter.
And then, of course, there’s the eating. Junk food doesn’t grow, only good food does. Naturally, growing food adds to the nutrition of your family table. The fun of picking and washing what a child grew himself makes it more likely he’ll take a taste.
I don’t have much space – last year I just grew things in big plastic pots at the top of the driveway. Find a sunny place in your yard or on the balcony. Then try growing any of these:
- Sugar snap peas, good enough to pick and eat on the spot
- Bush beans or pole beans (green beans)
- Cherry tomatoes, which come in an array of colors these days
- Lettuce (lettuce can take a bit more shade than other plants)
If you have a large-ish spot in the yard, grow pumpkins.
Now is the time, when winter seems endless, to start thinking about spring. Look through a seed catalog with your children and pick out a few things to grow in your little backyard farm. Get ready for spring and get ready for activity, thinking and delicious eating.
© 2014, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Ask for Dr. Anderson’s new book, Parenting: A Field Guide, at your favorite bookstore.