It is always exciting to see children develop new and interesting hobbies. It is a bonus when that interest turns out to be good for their health and the planet too. Kids will easily take to gardening and the idea of growing their own food, but they may need a little more inspiration than usual to get interested.
When you plant a seed, you plant a possibility, Cape Town’s “Ghetto Gardener”, Ludwe Qamata believes.
Gardening was his own saving grace and he believes that children should garden for the greater good. “Once you feed a young mind, the world is full of possibilities. Sowing a seed and watching it grow while you are maintaining it, teaches you love. It teaches you to love and nurture,” Qamata says.
Not only does edible gardening teach us patience and precision, it is also filled with rewards when you’re able to enjoy the fruits and veggies of your labour.
How do you keep little ones interested?
Sharing your love for gardening and growing your own food is a rewarding experience if you can get them out in the yard in the first place.
Avid gardener Stephanie Mullins suggests you start simply by having an honest conversation about where some of their favourite fruit and veggies comes from. Mullins is the lead facilitator at SEED, a permaculture design initiative based in Cape Town.
“Getting them interested in gardening is all about showing them where things come from.
“Showing them what these things look like and letting them taste the fresh-harvested version really sparks interest in their mind about where their food comes from,” she says.
Going green keeps them keen
Research has shown that kids who are more connected to nature and gardens tend to be more focused.
Mullins says the joy in the eyes of children when they are watching beans grow from seedlings to sprouts is something to behold.
“Show them the amount of time it takes for things to seed and develop a root,” she advises. Level up these lessons by letting them get down and dirty and planting their seedlings into the soil, she adds.
“Just having them experience sprouting, which eventually turns into life forms for us to use as energy, helps to keep their minds on the task.”
“Have them do a daily chore of watering or taking notes of how much it has grown – little things they can do – and change it up every week. To nurture one specific plant, keeps them on track with growing something.”
Growing and showing up
The benefits of teaching children to garden are endless. “One of the benefits is building relationships in the household. There is a trickledown effect. When children are excited about something, their parents tend to pay attention to that thing and either help them to nurture that thing or give them the space to explore that thing.”
And if you have a picky eater, letting them grow their own plants might be just the trick to get them interested in new food. It also exposes them to the opportunity to learn how things grow. Did they realise that carrots and potatoes grew underground? Did they know that beans can climb high?
Five tasks for your new kiddie gardener to try
Sowing love: Your kiddies will love sowing seeds. Big seeds from beans will be a breeze for your child to handle.
The muddier the better: Kids love getting their hands dirty, says Mullins. Put them to work and give them the responsibility of digging, composting and watering plants. They will also love assessing fertility. Mullins suggests earthworm hunting.
Quick and easy for the win: Encourage your kiddies to grow fruit and vegetables that are fast-growing so that they can see a quick return. Try sunflowers or climbing beans and get them to measure themselves against the plants each week.
Plant auditor: Assign your children the responsibility of keeping record of seeds you have sown, and what is in season.
Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it: Encourage them to taste crops out of their own vegetable patch.