I’m a big believer in teaching our children the fundamentals of connecting to earth and understanding that food actually comes from the ground. I remember a while back when someone’s child I know said “eewww” in disgust when they saw dirt on a vegetable (oh, the horror). They thought it was normal for carrots to be bite-sized, perfectly orange, in pre-packaged plastic bags.
Even though we don’t have much room for a big garden here at our house, we’ve planted small organic veggie and herb gardens in wooden beds we built by hand, along with potted fruit trees like satsuma oranges, grapefruits and lemons (yes, we’re lucky to be in Southern California with great sunshine).
Since our daughter was old enough to sit up, I’ve let her play in dirt and help plant seeds. John now holds her while he waters our garden so she can see the love that goes in to caring for plants, and already these last few weeks she now very happily wants to go outside and pull a carrot from the garden bed or pluck some strawberries (and when there’s none left to pick, I do the sneaky Mom thing and buy organic ones from the store and hide them in the plants so she can still pick a few to eat). Our herb garden is so abundant at the moment that every morning on her way to daycare, our daughter happily picks a piece of mint to chew on in the car.
I want her to know that not all fruits and vegetables look perfect like the pesticide-filled-wax-covered types you find in the store. I know – or at least hope – in the years to come this will help set the tone for healthy eating and a healthy respect for where our food comes from.
I encourage all parents to give it a try. It doesn’t take much space, money or energy.
Here are a few ideas:
- As soon as they can walk and talk, have them help you water flowers and plants in the garden
- Encourage your children to say “hello!” to plants and talk to them when they’re outside.
- If you have trees on the property, encourage a relationship with a specific tree – just like a pet dog or cat, have them care for it, water it, give it love, talk with it – and yes, hug it.
- Check your local healthy grocery store, they often have Basil plants already potted, just take them home, sit them on a windowsill, and water. Let your kids pick and eat the leaves, or help put them in the food you cook.
- Hang a planting bag and grow tomatoes upside down on your patio (great when you have no garden)
- Have a bit more space? Buy or build a planter box and add organic dirt, then from a local nursery buy already partially grown organic carrots and peas, and easy to grow herbs like mint, parsley, rosemary, and sage.
- If you have a bigger garden, have your kids create their own “fairy garden”… add herbs or plants that can act like trees, add little outdoor fairy statues (easy to buy on Amazon or other sites)
- Get your child out on to grass or in dirt in bare feet. Unless its particularly cold or freezing outside, don’t worry about them getting cold. Let their feet touch the ground and soak in the energy for a few minutes – or better yet a few hours!
- As often as you can – even if its once a month – take them to a forest, a field, or somewhere with lots of plants and trees. Get them out in to untouched nature (aka. not a manicured park). Have them understand the wild, untouched, ungroomed, beauty that is the natural world.
Let your kids get to know real food and real earth!