Is Gardening Good for Kids? (Part 1): How the 5 Senses Can Get Them to Eat More Veggies

Is Gardening Good for Kids? (Part 1): How the 5 Senses Can Get Them to Eat More Veggies

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Co-Author: Sarah Perry

For many parents getting our kids to eat vegetables feels a little bit like an impossible dream. 

We bribe, hide, cajole and threaten. 

We ask for polite bites or withhold dessert. 

It’s with no small amount of desperation that we scroll through Pinterest for that one recipe, that one bit of advice that will unlock the secret to getting our kids to not just eat their vegetables, BUT to like them! 

That doesn’t involve drowning it in a bottle of Ranch, of course. 

It turns out the secret is in the actual act of gardening itself. 

Why Is Gardening Good For Kids?

The Journal of the American Diabetic Association analyzed 11 different studies conducted on the impact of gardening on children. 

Not surprisingly, they found that when children are involved with gardening, they not only eat more fruits and vegetables but are actually more willing to try new ones (1). 

Another study conducted by the same journal found that in addition to an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption, 96% of the kids actually enjoyed the work that came with gardening (2). 

I know what you’re thinking: my kid will eat more vegetables AND enjoy a chore?? 

Sounds too good to be true! 

One of the reasons why kids are more prone to eat what they grow is due to what Dr. Debra Haire-Joshu calls a “positive food environment.” 

Kids that are emerged in a “positive food environment,” where they have the opportunity to grow and cook that food, have healthier diets (3). 

A study she conducted included 1,625 kids and found that those who ate the freshest produce actually ate 5.2 servings of vegetables a day!!!

That’s nearly equivalent to how many servings of veggies you need a day to prevent COVID. Eaten naturally because they were involved in the growing process!

The 5 Senses Play a Major Role in Getting Kids to Try Vegetables (Even the Ones They “Hate”)

Gardening engages all five senses, drawing kids into the environment completely. 

Kids not only get to SEE the way a seed is planted…is there a certain way the seed needs to go into the ground? How big does the hole need to be? How deep does it need to be? Then they get to watch that seed emerge and grow into a plant that produces food.

They get to FEEL the dirt between their fingers, the texture, and the size of the seed, the coolness of the water. 

Spending time outdoors in their gardens they HEAR the sounds of backyard nature – birds, squirrels, neighborhood dogs, and kids. 

They SMELL the vegetable and fruit blossoms, the food ripening on the vine. 

With all of their experience from the 4 other senses…

How can they not want to TASTE it!

How to Get Your Kids From No Vegetable Intake to 5.2 Servings a Day

  1. Grow a garden WITH them. Not only is this a great family activity, but there are so many other elements at play here that we can’t even see that will help your child know that there is more to vegetables than just the white stuff found on the baby carrots in the bag at the store!
  2. If gardening is not up your ally, the next BEST THING is to connect them with a farm. Meet the farmer, ask the questions, visit the farm, look at the produce, taste the produce. You will see a HUGE difference in your kids’ reactions to vegetables. They will try them…even the broccoli that makes NO APPEARANCE at your house!! I promise you they will sneak in a little taste!

If the iconic movie Field of Dreams with Kevin Costner didn’t push you to believe in the impossible, it definitely told you with hard work and persistence dreams really do come true.

If they grow it, they will eat it.

If you’re ready to start a garden with your kids, check out our Start Your Garden Workbook to get you started!