Plant a Healthier Future With Your Kids: Tips for Herb Gardening with Children

It's important to teach our kids the value of fresh, real food and a home cooked meal. However, we often struggle with just the right way to introduce these concepts to our children's developing palates and tastes. Why not try to encourage healthy eating, by engaging them in a summer activity such as planting an herb or two? Here are some thoughts and tips on this that I picked up at Austin's recent Food Revolution Day Event.

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When I was a child, I never looked up to anyone more than my mother and father. Young and impressionable, I picked up on my father's hard work ethic and my mother's way of caring unconditionally. I didn't really grasp the importance of eating well until much later, when I moved to Austin and it became a sort of social experience. With the child obesity epidemic in America this is something we might not be able to wait for anymore.

Eating right and well should be something all our children our taught at a very young age, so they have a better chance of carrying forward those good habits into their future. It might take a little bit of luck, and a lot of perserverence, but it's certainly something worth fighting for.

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During this week's Food Revolution Day events, The Well Gro Co. had a unique way to get children engaged. At their booth, at the SFC Farmer's Market, they had a Radio Flyer filled with fresh herbs and vegetables they were giving away to children and parents to promote their mission of teaching kids about good food in public schools - even to the point of providing cafeterias with fresh produce for school lunches.

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Kids of all ages responded amazingly positive to this. It was touching for me to see children pick up the plants from the cart, and plant them in pots with soil and a plastic shovel. I'd catch them smelling the herbs, smiling, and sometimes even trying to sneak another. I may have experienced the first time some kids really got to appreciate the savory aroma of fresh herbs, and it was inspiring to see. Why not try to replicate that experience this weekend in your household?

  • Pick up an easy to maintain herb, that's versatile and has a great aroma - basil and mint work really well for this.
  • When you get home help your kids plant the herb, either in a pot on the window sill or outside where it will get some natural light.
  • Explain how the nutrients the plant will receive from the soil and water will get transferred right back to us when we eat it.
  • Then snap a piece off, and let them smell the herb for themselves - their eyes will likely light up.
  • Suggest that maybe something should be made with that herb tonight. Make it seem fun and bold, what if we put that mint on some guacamole? Or what if we put that basil on our pizza?

Once they see how tasty their efforts can be, they'll be likely to make that connection with real food and natural taste. Children will feed off your enthusiasm for this, so if they see you involved and appreciative of the new house guest - what else could we make with that basil today? - they'll likely pick up that same level of joy. Caring for the new plant then won't seem so much as a chore, but as a reward - not just for dinner, but for their future.

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More on promoting healthy eating habits from The Kitchn:
The Apple Trick: On Not Tricking Kids into Eating Well
Kids love to Dip? 5 Healthy Dips that Qualify as Lunch
5 Sweet & Healthy Treat Ideas for Kids' Classrooms
Jamie Oliver's TED Talk: Teach Kids About Food
Michelle Obama's Recipe Contest for Kids

(Images: Chris Perez)