When my children were younger I had a clear idea of what I wanted to teach them. Much of it was based on the individualistic capitalist approach I was taught and the consumer-driven world we currently live in. In the more recent years I have done my best to transition from an avid consumer to a passionate conservationist, all along the way hoping to impress upon my children these new values. This goal poses many challenges in our modern day, but I persevere by believing every change makes a difference (no matter how small). My list helps show the big impact this “small change” can have on us and our children. Now with the COVID-19 crisis ravaging our country the problems with our current way of living have become even more abundantly clear. We live in a system that prioritizes profits over people, chooses industrial progress over environmental conservation, and consistently wastes valuable resources without regard. Living in a city like Las Vegas also highlights the amount of artificial infrastructure we currently need to sustain ourselves in an urban environment– as emphasized below by The Conversation:
“Extended urbanization happens within a capitalist framework of massive inequality. The food, gas, electricity and water that make urban life possible are often packaged, piped, cabled and plumbed into the city…”
…“The way in which capitalist states and enterprises address crises like fires, floods and the COVID-19 pandemic are illustrative: governments behave like ostriches by burying their heads as extended urbanization and capital expansion continue unabated.”by Roger Keil, Maria Kaika, Tait Mandler and Yannis Tzaninis, The Conversation
Food insecurity was rampant in our cities before the pandemic, we already had families living paycheck to paycheck, sometimes unable to sustain weekly meals. As we recently saw, in times of great uncertainty, supermarket shelves begin to go bare. Nationally we have an ever-growing homeless population, a climate crisis already impacting our food supply, and now millions of people unemployed. We need to find a way to make the people in our cities more food secure. We also need to do this during a pandemic while a large portion of us are being asked to stay home to stay safe. The great news is there is an engaging activity we can ALL do safely at home as a family that will also help make our cities more sustainable:
Grow a food garden!
Taking steps to end food insecurity is one fantastic reason to start a garden, below I have also put together ten more reasons why you will LOVE gardening with your children:
- Bonding — Growing a garden and working with plants offers opportunities to connect with your children each step of the way. From the beginning when your choosing plants, to fostering and watching their growth, to the end finally getting to enjoy the harvest, each part of the process can be enjoyed together.
- Practice Fine Motor Skills: Little Ones — Preschool age children will have a chance to practice their fine motor skills while gardening, plus they love getting their hands dirty!
- Promote Scientific Discovery: Older Children — School age children will likely want to know more in depth about how plants work leading to discoveries about broader subjects like plant friendly species, native plants, soil composition, how weather impacts plants and hopefully even more!
- Encourage Healthy Eating — Letting children pick some of the plants in your garden will ensure far more interest in trying those healthy foods. They will love being fully engaged in the process of getting that healthy food to their plate.
- Gain Important Life Skills — While gardening children of all ages will come to better understand the responsibility of care-taking, the benefits of patience, and how cause and effect impact the world around them.
- Initiate Curiosity — Gardening will encourage children to ask questions. As parents, you will get to enjoy helping them find the answers — watch as their questions and curiosities grow right along with their plants.
- Engaged with Nature — These days it seems like it’s becoming more and more challenging finding non-electronic activities for children–gardening not only gets them off of electronics it gets them outdoors, breathing fresh air and surrounded by life!
- Environmental Awareness — While gardening with children, we must also help to deepen their understanding of where our food currently comes from on a global scale. Once they see the impact our farming and food production practices have on the environment, they will be able to connect to how their gardening makes a difference.
- Build Confidence — Gardening is quite an undertaking for anyone, for children, it’s a chance to see their hard work pay off. Once your child sees their first fruit ripen, let alone tastes it, they will be so proud of themselves and rightfully so!
- Better Mental Health — Finally, studies have shown that when children make contact with soil and engage in activities like digging and planting it improves their moods, increases their learning, and decreases anxiety.
I am not sure how everyone else out there is coping with our current collective situation, but gardening offers an opportunity to create a little more certainty, something I know we could all use right now. Creating a garden does require an upfront investment of resources, but it will mostly require your time and care. I will be following up this article with a way you and your family can start a garden with items you already have in your home for less than $15. Until next time: Get going and get growing!
Gardening with young children helps their development, Kittie Butcher, Michigan State University Extension, and Janet Pletcher, Lansing Community College – April 24, 2017