Gardening With Children
A few warm days bring thoughts and planning for spring and summer activities. Consider gardening with children in your home as a inexpensive and positive family experience.
To get children involved in gardening, Cooperative Extension offers the 4-H Mini-Garden program for children ages 7 and older. The Mini-Garden program kicks-off on April 23 with an Orientation workshop where children and their parents can learn some gardening basics. Youth registered for Mini-Gardens will receive a variety of vegetable plants and seeds to create a 10 x 12 foot garden, garden project book, and have the chance to participate in monthly garden related workshops throughout the summer. Gardens are judged by a team of Master Gardeners that will visit the children’s home during the summer growing season. Youth will also complete project books that record their experience.
The NCSU Youth Horticulture shares research findings that show numerous documented benefits of youth gardening. Youth who are involved in gardening activities have improved nutritional eating habits. Once children have the chance to experience growing vegetables, they are more willing to try different vegetables that can lead to healthier eating habits. The typical mini-garden allows children to experience growing and tasting cucumbers, tomatoes, green pepper, and peas. In the past, the mini gardens have often produced enough tomatoes and peppers that in addition to eating, families can experiment with making homemade salsa and other recipes utilizing their fresh vegetables.
In addition to introducing youth to vegetables, gardening helps youth learn about the environment and science while they create their own garden at home. Research findings reported in HortTechnology revealed that elementary grade students who participated in school gardening scored higher on science achievement test compared to other students. The garden related learning experiences can be strengthened as youth work through a garden project book and attend related workshops that helps them learn the “hows” and “whys” to explain what is happening in the summer garden.
In addition to the Mini-Garden program, 4-H offers youth the chance to learn about gardening and horticulture by participating in the 4-H DIG (Discoveries in Gardening) Club which meets monthly or get involved in competitive programs such as the Horticulture Judging Contest and presentations on garden-related topics.