Family Matters #23: Gardening grows healthy families

Photo credit: Photo 206755429 / Vegetable Garden Children © Kiriill Ryzhov | Dreamstime.com

By Lucia Ferrara

Want your kids to be interested in something fun this summer? How about gardening? Gardening teaches patience and is filled with rewarding outcomes, because you can enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Eating fruits and vegetables from your own garden is so great and not to mention healthy for everyone involved.

You can teach your kids to understand and appreciate what goes into planning, building and maintaining a garden. This, I believe to be considered constructive use of time, according to the 40 Developmental Assets by the Search Institute.

The goal is to engage young people in three or more hours of creative activities — like gardening — per week, doing something productive and away from screens and social media.

All the articles in the Family Matters series are available here.

Activities like this, promote physical and motor skills at every stage of child development. For example, as children of any age move around carrying tools, water and soil, their bodies are using large muscles to manage and balance objects. Sensory stimulation is another aspect of gardening and physical development. Feeling the texture of the soil, plant leaves, roots and even water is an interesting way for kids to explore and learn about nature.

Gardening is also a great activity for your mental health. According to an article I read on the website Recover to Resources (rtor.org), “Gardening is beneficial for both physical and mental health, suggesting that 63% of people who garden experienced improved moods when gardening.” My flower and vegetable gardens are my sanctuary of peace, it is very therapeutic for me. It makes me happy and gives me a sense of accomplishment.

When I was a little girl, I helped my parents in the garden, and everything I learned, I now apply in my own flower and vegetable garden. I also teach my children all the tricks that were handed down to me. I remember as a young child, my dad and mom would spend countless hours on the weekends and even on weeknights after work prepping and maintaining a garden in our back yard. My Dad always claimed that keeping busy in the garden gave him a chance to keep his muscles intact and his mind clear.

In Europe, where my parents are from, they had community gardens in each village, adults and kids alike worked in them. Farming was a way of life back then; people were so poor that they relied on the food they grew for nourishment. Moreover, it also maintained a sense of community and accountability among the villagers.

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Whether it is a flower or vegetable garden, this is a great opportunity to spend time with your own children or neighbors. Remember that it takes a village! Gardening has a positive impact on all aspects of our lives. It promotes exercise, encourages healthy eating habits, improves mood, concentration, decreases stress, and allows for less time on social media devices and technologies.

If you live in an apartment and don’t have a yard or don’t have space for a garden where you live, many towns and cities have community garden programs where you can get a plot to cultivate for little or no cost. In the Kansas City area, you can find resources at Kansas City Community Gardens, which covers the whole metro area.

I encourage all of you to start discussing ways on how to incorporate gardening into your family routines. It is not too late to start. Do your research and plan. I leave you with a few reflections until next time!

  1. Discuss with your family about where in your yard you want to make space for a vegetable and/or flower garden. You need everyone’s input on this, plan what areas get the most or least amounts of shade or sun during the day.
  2. Parents, stay calm and be patient. Some children may not seem interested at first but allow them to explore their imaginations. Communication is key.
  3. Have fun and relax. If all else fails, you have created great memories with your children and others involved!

[Lucia Ferrara is the Director of Hospitality at Precious Blood Renewal Center and the lead organizer here of Parent Cafes. Share your thoughts with Lucia or ask her questions by using the form below or sending an email to info@pbrenewalcenter.org. Read more about the Parent Café here.]

Photo credit: Photo 206755429 / Vegetable Garden Children © Kiriill Ryzhov | Dreamstime.com

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