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Sep 24, 2012
Keep kids learning in the garden – even after school starts
Theresa Loe  Associate Producer | Growing A Greener World

Yes, it is that time of year already. The kids are back in school and the long days of summer have ended. However, just because the kids aren’t home all day doesn’t mean we stop teaching them life lessons in the garden! There are many activities that we can, and should, share with them.

Keep sharing harvest time with your children. For many of them, the best part of edible gardening is picking and eating what they grew. I know sometimes we tend to quickly pick veggies ourselves right before dinner, but I really think it’s important to include our kids in the experience of the harvest. After all that waiting, they should get to be the ones to pull the tomatoes off the vine and the carrots from the ground.

Time to unwind (and reconnect)
A little time spent in the garden is a great way to unwind after a day at school. Children have limited outdoor time during the school day, so even a few minutes in the garden before starting homework can really recharge their brains and help them shift gears. It also gives you a vehicle for asking about their day without giving them the third degree. Try to carve out garden time each week as an after school activity.

Taking it full circle
I am a firm believer in not making garden chores feel like drudgery to kids because I don’t want to turn them off from the experience. I think it is important, though, for children to understand that the garden does not clean itself. They need to experience the whole journey in order to fully appreciate where their food comes from. I save the yanking of old, tired plants for my kids. They actually love to rip tomato plants out of the ground. I have to admit, it’s kind of fun!

Planting a fall garden
Now that the summer garden is finishing up, it is time to start planting winter crops. Have your kids help you plant beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, kale, onions, peas, radishes or salad greens. Fall crops (root vegetables and leafy greens) tend to be the ones that kids avoid when seen on a dinner plate, but by growing them in the garden, their curiosity is sparked. Then when they taste them, they will discover that they have a whole different flavor when they are homegrown. They might be surprised to learn they like some of them!

Keeping gardening as part of your family routine will help your kids stay connected to the outdoors and to you. Enjoy that time together. They grow up so fast!

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