Engaging children in gardening and cooking activities can teach them valuable lessons that can affect their nutritional habits up until adolescence. Eating well can ensure that kids can get all the nutrients they need for energy, learning and growth. It also helps reduce their chances of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other health conditions in later life. Creating a positive relationship with food is important and one way we can do this is by getting them involved in growing and cooking the food they eat.
Here are some of the main benefits of gardening and cooking with your children:
Inspire Healthy Eating
Children will feel a sense of pride and accomplishment after growing their food. Many children feel more willing to taste the food they have grown or cooked themselves. It can also generate conversation around new fruits and vegetables they haven’t tried and encourage a larger variety of fruit and vegetables. Ideally, kids (as well as adults) need a rainbow of different fruits and vegetables for good health.
Spend quality time
Spending time in the garden and kitchen can be fun and exciting activities for children of all ages. Parents can teach children the benefits of eating fruits, vegetables, and herbs. These activities also increase the bonding between children and parents and create wonderful memories.
A fun activity with an older child would be to discuss:
- Which fruit, vegetable, or herb to plant
- Where to plant the seed, seedling, or plant
- What kind of delicious meal or snack they can make using that food
Develop motor skills
Gardening and cooking are great for when kids are most curious. It allows them to touch, feel, taste, smell, and see a variety of plant foods. Not only that but gardening and cooking involve lots of different movements and activities that help children to develop several fine and gross motor skills. Fine motor activities are being able to grasp, hold and pinch objects to make them move in a certain way. Gross motor activities include movements of upper and lower body muscles.
- Fine motor activities: holding a shovel, using an age-appropriate knife, or carefully picking fruits from the plants.
- Gross motor activities: carrying water can, digging holes for the seeds, and stretching to reach attached fruits.
Develop positive behaviours
Children who grow their plants and prepare meals with their parents usually develop key social skills. Gardening teaches them patience, as they plant a seed and wait for it to grow for weeks before enjoying its fresh produce. It also teaches them responsibility, as they learn how to take care of their plants every day to grow properly. Additionally, cooking with parents helps children to develop skills like:
- Following instructions
- Learning from mistakes
Children can discover multiple things from nature to nutrition. Gardening and cooking are good opportunities to teach them the science behind the growth of plants, their basic lifecycle, and their need for water, soil and sunlight. It can also help with other skills like math. Consider these activities:
- Counting seeds
- Measuring the growth of the plants
- Comparing the sizes of fruits and vegetables
So parents, start to prepare the seeds and watering cans for your little ones. This is a great way to start a new healthy habit, aiming for less screen time and more green time.
– Zainab (Health promotion student, Baker Institute) 🌱