Let's Grow! Why Gardening is Good for Your Kids' Health

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Oregonians have access to an abundance of fruits and vegetables, which may be why we eat more veggies than most of the other states. That said, we still eat far fewer then are recommended. In fact, most Oregonians eat less than half the amount of fruits and veggies that they should!

Getting your kids to eat the recommended amount of fruits and veggies is one of the most important things you can do to promote their health. This can also help them in school, because healthy kids learn better. Another added bonus? If we are suppose to eat twice as many fruits and vegetables, that could be twice as many sales to Oregon farmers!
Engaging kids with food works to improve their willingness to try new vegetables, and kids who garden tend to eat a greater amount and variety of fruits and vegetables. But you don’t need a big yard to reap the benefits of gardening. Kids can get their gardening fix in the schoolyard, windowsill, or vertically on a wall.
Whether you are a seasoned green thumb, or a greenhorn grower, here are five tips to get your family engaged in growing food:
1.    Imagine your dream garden together.
The more involved kids are in selecting what is going to be grown, the more likely they are to eat it when it is harvested. Start by listing all the things you want to grow. A fun rainy day family activity is reading through seed catalogues you can get free in the mail. Have your older kids read the descriptions while your younger ones cut out what they want to grow, and glue it to a garden vision board. Everyone will be amazed and excited by the variety.
2.    Plan together.
Now that you have likely picked out more than can grow in the space or climate you have, its time to whittle down to what you can realistically grow this year. Encourage your family to get out and measure your space, then plot where different plants will go. During this process your local retail nursery, garden center, and Master Gardeners are your best friend. They have the knowhow and supplies to help you with your particular situation.
3.    Plant and tend together.
Time together tending your budding crop creates food memories kids will recall for their whole lives. Have each child be responsible for at least one age-appropriate task such as watering or weeding a particular area.
4.    Enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Make the time to learn and teach your kids the essential skills of selecting ripe foods from the garden, safely preparing them, and serving them as part of a healthy meal or snack. The more times you can repeat the process of taking produce from the garden to the kitchen to the table, the more you accelerate progress toward lifelong healthy eating.
5.    Share the harvest.
The connection your kids will feel sharing zucchini they grew with the neighbor is priceless. Plus, nothing says, “I did it more” than well, saying, “I did it.” In all the real and virtual ways you can, share the progress of your garden adventures with family and friends. Identifying and sharing successes and failures genuinely increases kids competence thus preparing the ground for an even more successful season the following year.
If you looking for more room to grow? Check out community gardens to find extra space, or help out in your kids’ school gardens.   Get more growing tips from the live better, plant something online community, and be sure to visit the Center for Disease Control’s Fruit and Vegetable Calculator to calculate how many produce servings a day you should be eating each day.