COLUMN: Growing up with a garden is good for little green thumbs

Research has shown that gardening improves children’s preference for fresh fruit and vegetables, and increases their knowledge of nutrition.

My husband informed me that while I was out the other evening, our two-year-old ate four entire carrots.

No, she doesn’t have a peculiar love of vegetables. Usually, she leaves the green and orange bits on her plate for last. Sometimes, I put out a plate of raw veggies before dinner so she will munch on them while she waits for her meal – she likes them more when they’re her only option.

But for some reason if it comes from our backyard garden, she will chow down both willingly and eagerly.

She pops bits of spinach leaves into her mouth that she has picked straight off the plant. She has her own pair of toddler-sized gardening gloves she loves to wear to dig up potatoes. She searches for the bluest blueberries on the bushes (she knows to “no eat green ones”).

And while she could care less about the chopped up carrots in shepherd’s pie, she loves the carrots she pulls out of the garden (we wash them, of course).

She helped us ready the garden as well, throwing the heirloom green bean seeds we bought at South Surrey’s Stewart Farm into pre-dug holes in the dirt, and toting soil to her dad in her little plastic wheelbarrow. Not to mention she discovered worms, caterpillars and other little creatures while doing so.

I’m thrilled that Elise enjoys the literal fruits of our labour. I didn’t garden as a child, and today the knack doesn’t come naturally for me – our garden, which we started this year after moving to a home with a larger yard, is something my husband has always wanted.

Hopefully, planting, playing in and eating from the garden will instill a greater awareness of where our food comes from and a greater willingness to get her hands dirty than I had in my youth.

According to Cornell University’s Garden Based Learning site, research has shown that gardening improves children’s preference for fresh fruit and vegetables, and increases their knowledge of nutrition.

The site refers to other studies showing children who garden have more positive attitudes about environmental issues, form emotional connections with their garden, and are more likely to consume fruits and vegetables as adults, among other benefits to their health and well-being.

But the most tangible benefit for us right now is that the garden gets an eager little girl outside in the fresh air.

And who wouldn’t want to hear their two-year-old ask if she can go outside because “Elise want carrots”?

Kristine Salzmann is a former Black Press reporter and mom to two-year-old Elise. She writes monthly for The Leader on parenting issues.

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