Grow Your Own Healthy Eater

Keeping food and all meal time experiences positive help your children be more willing to try food and become adventurous eaters. Experts say that children often develop picky eating by modeling their parents’ fussy eating habits or when parents create a negative eating environment by using food to reward, punish or bribe a child. Some children are naturally more sensitive to taste, smell and texture. However, even if they do not like a food once, you should keep serving it to them at least another 10 - 12 times.

Just remember, you are in charge of buying – or growing – the food and control what, where and when food is provided. Involving your child in some of the decision making, such as picking out a vegetable to go with your dinner or a fruit for the week’s snack, as well as letting them help in the preparation and cooking of food could entice them to be more willing to eat those foods.

It’s the same with creating a garden. Let them help you grow some food your entire family can enjoy. The garden can be as small or as big as you want it, and in the ground, containers or a garden box. Let the planning process be something that you do with your child, including the decision to grow from seeds or plants purchased from your local nursery or farmers market. Once you have your basic plan together, you need to figure out what you want to grow. Tomatoes, blue berries, spinach? Be sure to pick one or two items that you want your child to try and some that you know they already like.

There are many resources on the Web to help you figure out exactly what will grow best in your garden and how to maintain it. During your planning, be sure to think about garden maintenance as well so they can learn how to take care of the garden – watering, weeding and spacing – as well as watch the veggies and fruits grow. If you grow your garden without pesticides, some of the fun will be picking and eating straight from the plant!

Tips for gardening with children:

  • Be patient. They will want to play in the dirt, look at the seeds or feel the plants, and spill the water before it gets to the garden. They’ll surely pick a green tomato too.

  • Explain what you are doing in easy to understand words and have them mimic your actions when planting and harvesting.

  • Make your planting rows obvious to deter your child from walking on or digging in areas where new plants are starting to grow.

  • Stay realistic about what your helper can and will do. While they can help with most everything, their attention span will not be as long as yours so once they help for a bit, it’s okay for them to wander off to play.

  • Read books about gardening and different types of gardens: urban gardens, country gardens, sensory gardens, flower gardens, etc.

  • Take trips to botanical gardens, local farmers gardens, and dairy farms.

  • Eat what you grow and make sure that they see you eating it too.