Young children learn faster than adults. They learn using all of their senses; seeing, hearing, touching, and tasting. Edible gardens for preschoolers are a fun way to teach them about healthy eating, science, patience, and more!
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Grow It and Let Them Help
You do not need a huge space to put in a veggie garden. You can plant perfect toddler-friendly veggies on your patio or balcony. Or you can plant a small edible garden for your preschooler in the back yard with minimal tools.
You can also plant herbs to keep salads, dips, and other foods interesting. For example, lemon mint is easy to grow and can be added to smoothies, iced tea, or salads. Your child will have fun growing the seeds, then picking the leaves to add to a recipe in the kitchen.
Make sure the children have tools that are made for children their age. Gardening gloves should fit their small hands to protect their skin. Hats must be designed to protect their face and neck from the sun. Small trowels and garden tools for their use are great too (and avoid accidents that could be caused if they use rakes or shovels that are too big).
You can also turn gardening into a bigger learning activity by keeping a journal about it. Have children write down what they planted and when, then record when the seeds sprout, start producing fruit or vegetables, and when the produce is harvested. Children who can’t write yet can draw pictures of their plants.
What Should You Plant in Edible Gardens for Preschoolers?
Don’t take seed from people you don’t know. Don’t buy discount seeds. Purchase your seeds from good source so they are guaranteed to be fresh and to grow. Nothing is worse than waiting for seeds that never grow because they were too old.
Plant seeds your children will notice when they begin to grow.
Plant foods they have seen before, so they get excited when they recognize these foods growing.
Plant foods that are healthy and taste sweet.
Our food sustains us and that life source is a beautiful gift. It is an incredible life lesson to watch a seed sprout, grow, and bear fruit. It’s a gift for our children to learn how a seed holds the miracle of the food that feeds us. ~ Sarah Avila, “Kids in the Garden“
Here are some suggested foods for your edible garden:
- Sweet corn
This is just a small example of kid-friendly plants; there are many more. Let your child pick their favourite fruits or vegetables to grow, or look at seeds with you and choose some to plant.
However, with young children, you may want to stay away from growing nuts. Many children have allergies to nuts. Even if your child doesn’t have allergies, their friends may (and they’ll want to show off their growing plants!).
Planting Your Edible Garden with Preschoolers
Prepare the soil for the garden and draw out where the plants will go. You can stretch coloured string to divide each child’s section. Your child could also make plant markers to indicate where each plant is growing.
Plant the seeds. Let the kids water them with their watering cans. Don’t let them over-water the garden and drown their seeds! Read your seed packages with your child to see how often the seeds need to be watered (daily or weekly?).
Getting Ready For Your Harvest
While your edible garden is growing, take advantage of teachable moments. You can talk with your preschooler about each of the veggies that will be harvesting. Gardening also cultivates patience, as your child may want to eat their produce as soon as it appears—but green strawberries or tomatoes aren’t very tasty!
During the year, you can grow herb gardens in the windows. Try making different dips and letting the children taste them with small crackers. This will give you some idea of what will make harvest day a big success.
Sharing and Caring
When a child has the experience of planting a seed and watching the magic of that seed changing into sprouts of green pushing up through the soil, it is thrilling. But when that little seed becomes a yummy berry or veggie, it is magical.
After the veggies and fruits are harvested and brought inside, let your children share their food with others. If they are in preschool, they could tell their friends about their veggies. Or they can offer some produce to the neighbours.
Kids in the garden learn so many lessons, from working together to sharing their work. They learn to take care of something living, to consider what that plant needs and how they can meet those needs. They learn patience as their plant grows over time. They learn to enjoy nature and its wonders.
If They Grow It, They Will Eat It
Growing fruits and vegetables is a great way to encourage your children to eat healthier. As they see their plants growing and producing food, they’ll want to try this food. Of course, it helps to start with fruits and vegetables that your child is likely to eat.
As they have success with that, try to introduce new foods. Buy seeds you’ve never tried before; the anticipation of waiting for this food to grow may encourage a child to eat it when it has grown.
Edible gardens for preschoolers are not only fun but also informative!
Have you tried gardening with your preschoolers?