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One great way to get kids interested in nutrition and trying new foods is to get them as involved as possible in the selection and preparation of those foods. Even better is if you can grow some food yourself, so the child is invested in the food from the very beginning.
Knowing where food comes from is so important, and it’s great to reinforce that good things come from the Earth by actually planting some yourself.
The girl has always been interested in gardening, doing “yard work” (aka pulling weeds) and growing things, so it’s a natural this time of year to talk about how things grow as we are planning what we want to grow this year.
One thing that is so important when getting kids interested in gardening is to ask them what they want to plant and letting them go to the garden center with you to choose different things to plant.
There was one year we pretty much only grew strawberries and broccoli, because those are two things she likes. I hope to do a lot more this year (and maybe not broccoli, since it all got eaten by caterpillars), but it’s good to have things the child will actually eat in the garden.
Also, let them help with planting — whether seeds or actual plants — and encourage them to do the watering and to help harvest the goods when it’s time.
The things we grow are usually served raw, but if you have something you want to cook (especially if you’re trying to get the child interested in something they haven’t tried or liked before), let the kids pick out a recipe and help in the kitchen, too.
Seeing how food grows and actually helping to grow it is one of the best ways to get kids interested in nutrition and trying new foods.
There are so many books for all age levels about gardening, it will be easy for you to head to the library and pick up a few good ones.
A couple of good picture books about gardening include Zora’s Zucchini by Katherine Pryor, which tells the story of a garden overflowing with zucchini and what one little girl does about it; and Eddie’s Garden and How to Make Things Grow by Sarah Garland. That’s the story of a boy and his little sister who plant a lot of vegetables and flowers in their garden, and learn a little bit about beneficial insects and organic pest control (going on a nighttime slug hunt) along the way. Secrets of the Garden by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld follows a family as they plant their garden, watch the seeds sprout, and learn about the food web through animals that eat the plants and animals that eat other animals.
Watch Me Grow by Deborah Hodge is a great one for kids in the city who might not know that food grows there, too. It’s Our Garden by George Ancona explores a school garden, where kids plant, tend and harvest vegetables, learn about bees, make art and enjoy community.
There are also a lot of great garden project-type books, which include simple ideas you can try with your kids, not always related to food. Little Green Thumbs by Mary An Van Hage has projects for every season, from tips for growing giant pumpkins and tiny tomatoes to growing seedlings in orange peels to forcing bulbs and making a train out of juice cartons that will carry watercress sprouts (the girl was particularly interested in that one).
Your First Garden Book by Marc Brown (yes, the Arthur Marc Brown) is an oldie but a goodie that covers things like sprouting beans, growing bulbs indoors, growing potatoes in a bucket and other food from “garbage,” and how to grow peanuts from peanuts. There are also things like making bird feeders, tips for raising vegetables in the city and plants for a salad garden. Another old one that actually has a lot of good details for the projects is Linnea’s Windowsill Garden by Christina Bjork and Lena Anderson. It includes tips on things like how to grow an avocado from a pit, how seeds sprout, what the water system is and how to take a cutting from a flower and make a new plant.
There are also tons of how-to gardening books aimed at slightly older kids. We found Organic Gardening for Kids by Elizabeth Scholl, Growing Vegetables by Tracy Neslon Maurer, and Kids’ Container Gardenings by Cindy Krezel, which is a yearlong guide to garden projects and includes flowers and produce.
And then of course there’s the classic Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots By Sharon Lovejoy, great for grownups and older kids to read and plan projects from. Everything from a pizza garden to a moth-attracting goop is included, as well as growing things in buckets and boots, making a nighttime garden, a maze of flowers and much more.
Find the Letter N is for Nutrition from 3 Boys and a Dog
Make a Fun Food Dinosaur from Pears from Brain Power Boy
How to Reduce Sugar Intake in Kids from Kara Carrero
Growing Vegetable Soup Inspired Nutrition Activity from Pre-K Pages
Grocery Shopping Activity from Sunny Day Family
Healthy Meal Planning with Kids from Schooling a Monkey
Nutrition App from iGameMom
Healthy Nutrition Books for Kids from The Jenny Evolution
Kids Nutrition Activities with Free Printables from Natural Beach Living
Mud Kitchen with Stone Veggies from Parenting Chaos
Healthy Food Group Worksheets from Living Life and Learning
Nutritional and Fun Snacks for Kids: Paw Patrol Themed Badge from Crafty Mama in ME
Vegetable Beginning Sound Clip Cards from Simple Fun for Kids
Bubble Wrap Painted Fruit & Veggie Puppets from Play Dough & Popsicles