Health Benefits of Gardening for Children

I am currently helping some students at my sons’ high school with their school garden. Most recently, we transplanted some basil and heirloom tomato seedlings that I started indoors for them. The students hope to use the fresh produce from their garden later this year to sell for a fundraiser. In addition to helping them with the garden, I also teach them about the health benefits of gardening.

It is important for children to understand the role of farming and gardening in promoting health and preventing disease. Farming and gardening promotes health through fruit and vegetable production. Farming and gardening can also promote health and prevent disease through practices that are implemented to grow our fruits and vegetables. Organic practices, for example, eliminate the use of chemical herbicides and pesticides, some of which have been identified as probable carcinogens. Eliminating herbicides and pesticides that may cause cancer is a preventative health measure that benefits individuals, communities, and the environment!

Do you encourage or involve your children in growing their own fruits or vegetables? Studies show that people who grow their own fruits and vegetables tend to consume more fruits and vegetables. This is also true for children. Research has shown that children who grow their own vegetables are 5 times more likely to eat them! If your children do not seem very enthused about gardening, try a creative approach.  Browse through a seed or plant catalog with them. Let them pick something unusual. Suggest growing a purple cauliflower. How about some yellow tomatoes? Perhaps some red carrots might intrigue their interest.

Some of the educational benefits of school gardens include students scoring significantly higher on standardized science achievement tests. Research shows that students who participate in gardening take pleasure in learning and show positive attitudes towards education. Parental involvement increases at schools with garden programs. Parental involvement has been shown to shown to enhance student achievement. School garden programs often include lessons on nutrition, resulting in greater knowledge about healthy eating.

School gardens result in positive health benefits for children. For example, students are more likely to eat vegetables that they have grown themselves. They are also more likely to ask for them at home. When students take their preferences back to their families, they can help to improve their family’s consumption choices. Gardening during childhood exposes children to healthy food, moderate exercise, and positive social interactions. Gardening during childhood can often lead to a lifetime of gardening.

Adults who were exposed to gardening during their childhood often develop a desire to garden later in life. From my own personal, childhood experience, I recall helping my grandparents with their vegetable gardens frequently during the summer. I probably perceived it as ‘work’ at the time. However, as an adult, I now appreciate my grandparents taking the time to involve me. I am not a vegetarian by any means, but I tend to favor fruits and vegetables over meats. I have often wondered if my childhood exposure to gardening influenced my food preferences as well as my interest in farming and gardening as an adult.

Encouraging your children to participate in farming and gardening will help set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating and gardening habits. Empower your children to be their own wellness warriors by helping them start a fruit or vegetable garden today!

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