Gardens are powerful positive food experiences for kids, any effort you put into it won’t be in vain. Learn how to use one to get your child to eat new foods. Affiliate links used below.
I love gardening! Admittedly, I’m not that good at it and still have a lot to learn, but for most of the last 8 summers, we have had some type of garden. If you have never given it a shot, it is seriously one of the most satisfying and rewarding hobbies you can get into. Of course, that isn’t the reason I’m writing about it here. This has been on my “to-write” list for two years and every spring comes and goes before I get it together. While May might be a little late for a post on gardening with your kids, you still have lots of time to get organized and get planting.
How Gardening Can Help Kids Eat New Foods
Besides my own passion for eating fruits and veggies that are fresh and pesticide free, gardening is great for kids, especially the elusive picky eater! If you follow along here, you know that I talk a lot about keeping mealtimes and experiences with foods positive. Gardening is one of the best ways to do that. The pressure to eat is off, but the kids are working and interacting with the food, much in the same way cooking with them does (click here for more on cooking with kids). More than that though, they become committed to it. They are invested from even the earliest of ages, as they run to their garden or pots to check on growth.
Last summer we had a blueberry bush fruit and my “picky” eater who would normally never consider eating a blueberry, happily plucked them off the branches and into his mouth without a hint of anxiety. It was amazing to see, but I get why it worked. Even though Isaac has underlying sensory issues that cause his selectiveness, there are some habits, routines, and stresses around eating for him. The carefree fun he was having with his brother took all that pressure and anxiety away.
Gardening also gives kids a chance to see and understand what they are eating in a new way. If you start with little seeds or small plants, they have the opportunity to see and experience the foods in new ways.
The time it takes for fruits and veggies to grow literally gives them time to become comfortable with the foreign food. It is an awesome opportunity for them to see, touch, and smell the fruits and veggies.
If you have a child that is an extremely picky eater, almost everything about food is negative. Watching food grow and harvesting it is a powerful, positive experience that will leave a strong impression. It may motivate them to interact with foods in ways you never would have dreamed of at the table. Just remember to never them to do anything with the food in the garden, or your efforts could be lost. Invite them to explore and have checking your garden be part of your routine. Talk about the color, size, shape, and smell of the foods you are growing in a completely exploratory way, not in a “I’m hoping you’ll eat this” kind of way.
Gardening Doesn’t Have to Be Overwhelming
I already know what you’re thinking… You don’t have time or space! I get it, really. But, getting a couple of pots and having them sit on your deck is considered a garden to your child and the effects will be the same. See the end of this post for resources to get a simple garden started. My best advice is to start small.
Children’s Books About Gardening
To help get your kids excited about growing fruits and vegetables, I’m sharing some of my favorite books about gardening and some recommended by others. Reading and talking about food also helps create those positive experiences around food. Reading these books while growing your garden will have a really huge impact! Here are my pics:
Growing Vegetable Soup– A simple story with big bold illustrations keeps the youngest readers interested and teaches them about gardening basics.
Secrets of the Garden– All the details of growing a garden as you follow a family and two funny chickens through the growing season. Lots of details and packed with info for 4-9 year olds.
How to (Easily) Start Your Own Garden
I hope I have swayed you to consider gardening, even if it is just a couple of pots on the porch. It really can be that easy. Since I’m not getting into the nitty gritty of actual gardening here, I wanted to give you some informative posts from a few other places if you need help getting started:
5 Crops for Beginners to Grow from Seed from Long Live Learning
Celebrating Spring Gardening with Kids- from Carrots are Orange
Recycled Container Ideas with Kids Round-Up from Inspiration Laboratories
I love pinning and sharing gardening ideas for kids and more resources on improving your kids eating. Follow along on Pinterest! And if you’d like to grab a free printable click here to get 9 Ways to Improve Your Kid’s Eating. These tips are total game changers if you have a picky eater.
More Tips for Picky Eaters
Turning My Picky Eater Around: An Easy to Follow Plan
The BEST Strategy for Picky Eating
How to Cook One Family Meal with a Picky Eater
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I just read your awesome article on gardening with kids! Thank you so much for putting all of this together. gardening is such a great way to get kids interested in healthy eating.
As someone who loves gardening with my own kids, I completely agree that it’s a great way to get them interested in trying new vegetables.
Hi Deborah! Thank you for reaching out and sharing your feedback with us! So glad to hear that you enjoyed this post and utilize gardening in your own life with your children. It is definitely a fun and hands-on way to get kids interested in fruits and vegetables! 🙂
Thanks for the link! We just love gardening with kids. It’s true that my sons have been playing in the garden since they were babies and they are very picky eaters: They want to pick what they eat from the garden! LOL
You mentioned your son has sensory issues. My daughter is two and responds to certain things in an extremely negative way. For example, going to the beach and getting sand on her causes a meltdown worthy enough to qualify as a mild panic attack. She refuses to touch any foods that are wet or that look different, and as for meat, well, she won’t go near it with a ten foot pole. When she was a baby, I made all her baby food and she ate a huge variety of things. Now that she is a bit more aware she has become extremely limited in what she will eat. I’m not sure if my child has underlying sensory issues like yours does, but that definitely gave me pause when I read it. We are currently growing our first tomato plant and she enjoys helping with watering that each day. Maybe gardening would open up some more avenues and help her want to try more foods. Thanks for the info!
Hi Anna, Yes, everything you are describing sounds like sensory processing difficulties, but you are in the right place. In the menu bar there is a tab called Sensory Basics that will be really helpful and there is another tab Article Index. Scroll down until you see Sensory- you will find more there, check out the sensory bin list for sure. Gardening is a good place to start but there is a lot more simple things you can do. Start poking around here and I’m sure you will find even more for picky eating. Let me know if I can be of more help!
Awesome!! thank you for sharing