The reasons for teaching children about gardening are numerous and without doubt, convincing. According to the National Survey of Children’s Health for Hawai‘i (2007), 17.3 percent of school-age children are overweight and 11.2 percent are obese.
Nationally, slightly more than 51 percent of children eat one serving of fruits a day and 29 percent eat less than one serving a day of vegetables that are not fried. Many children have limited exposure to a wide range of healthy locally available foods. Even worse, most children have no idea where food comes from or how it is prepared.
Today, a lot of people, including our First Lady are convinced that gardening is a powerful tool in engaging youth in healthy lifestyles. Gardening is an integral part of Michele Obama’s, “Lets Move” initiative aimed at raising a healthier generation of kids.
Children are more likely to eat vegetables they have grown.
Studies of children who are involved in gardening activities indicate that such children are able to utilize their free time more constructively, have increased physical activity levels, and learn better nutritional and healthy eating habits by growing their own vegetables and fruits. Gardening also provides youth with an opportunity to gain a better appreciation for nature and the environment—environmental stewardship.
Children of all ages can participate in various forms of gardening activities. Most parents know that toddlers love to dig in the dirt and they get immense fascination with insects and bugs. Learning about gardening, growing flowers or vegetables can be a fun experience for a parent and their child.
The gardening team can begin by deciding what to grow and making a shopping list of all the materials needed to start a garden. It’s best to begin with fast-growing vegetables that yield quicker results. Encourage the child to keep a garden journal, recording important events and changes that occur seasonally after season. As much as possible, parents should allow their keiki to be responsible for the garden maintenance.
Once the plants are ready for harvest, celebrate by inviting other family members to join in a garden salad party, utilizing the vegetables that you have grown. Children are more likely to eat vegetables that they have had a hand in growing.
As a parent, you have the opportunity to help grow healthy kids who are strong and are eager to put their hands in the dirt, touching the earth and unlocking its mystery to feed the mind and body.
See “Youth Gardening Workshop.”