Going Green with Kids

04 February 2014
Ever wondered how to get your children to eat more vegetables? The easiest way is to get your kids back in the garden. When children grow vegetables and herbs, they will (mostly) eat it. Getting your children involved in the whole process makes them feel included in what they choose to eat. Once they have learnt to grow their own foods, getting them in the kitchen is the natural progression. Teaching them how to cook some basic recipes builds their sense of pride and encourages them to be involved in what nourishes their body.

With so many after school activities, play dates and work commitments it may seem difficult to fit ‘growing a garden’ into all of that. I built a garden in pots with my 2 young boys and I get delicious tomatoes and lettuce each morning from there. It really is as simple as you make it. All you need to build you garden is:

  • 2-4 large pots
  • organic potting mix
  • a small bag of crushed rock
  • seedlings for your garden - my favourites for young children are; tomato, basil, lettuce, thyme and parsley. Talk to your kids about what they want.

Find a spot outside that is close to the back door, has some nice sun without being in the sun all day. Set up your pots there and simply put a small layer of rock at the bottom of each of the pots and then fill with the organic potting mix. Make small holes in your soil and plant each seedling. Water them well.

Once you have created your vegetable garden it is great to add a simple 5 minute daily routine with your children to maintain the garden. A daily watering and weekly liquid fertiliser should see you picking your produce in no time.

The satisfaction from your childs face in picking a fresh tomato or some lettuce is exciting to see. Creating this engaging activity and space for some family bonding is invaluable when we can all get so time poor.

The best thing about having a simple small garden is that your children can see and learn to appreciate how food is grown. By teaching them about the connection between growing food and what we eat, they can develop an appreciation for real food that nourishes their body.

I love getting creative in the kitchen to make a green smoothie with the food that we grow. These smoothies are full of fresh fruits and vegetables so they are getting a good serving of goodness. My sons favourite one is really simple to make. All you have to do is add the following ingredients into the blender and blend away:

  • 1 large frozen banana
  • 2 leaves of kale/collard/spinach
  • Lots of ice
  • 250ml of water
  • Greens powder (optional)

This ‘Monster Juice’ that we make together is our yummy treat we make each day for morning tea. As Luca is picking the kale out of our garden that he has grown he is so excited to make and enjoy his drink.

The trend towards green smoothies has certainly increased on the Sunshine Coast with many health conscious café’s adding them to the menu. Monique, co-owner of Ground café in Buderim, says “there have been heaps more kids coming in even just in the last 12 months, the number are growing every month. More parents are becoming more health conscious and disguising the greens in a yummy smoothie. It's so cool”.

Creating a green smoothie is just one fun way to use the produce that you are growing. Some other options include picking the tomatoes and basil to make some brushetta. This is a great activity for kids to get some practice with cutting and assembling food. There are so many options and it is great to get your kids to think about different things they could make with the food they grow.

Providing the confidence and skills to build a vegetable garden and cook with fresh ingredients has been my motivation to start Tiny Chefs. Tiny Chefs is a local business that provides Early Childhood teachers with a unique program and supporting resources to implement a cooking and gardening program within their classroom with ease. By educating our young children about these sustainable habits we can help them create a future where gardening and cooking become a typical household activity that can be shared by the whole family.

Nicky Leonti - www.tinychefs.com.au or email: nicky@tinychefs.com.au

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Nicky Leonti
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