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Kids in the Garden: Introducing Gardening to Youth

Some people think that gardening is only an adult activity, but gardening is good for youth, too.

Some people think that gardening is only an adult activity, but gardening is good for youth, too.

Youth can gain many benefits from gardening, such as learning to care for things and patience in watching vegetables grow. They can build relationships and develop cooperation skills. They also learn about the nutritional benefits of the fruits and vegetables they are growing.

NDSU Extension has partnered with the NDSU Center for Child Development on campus to determine if gardening, hands-on activities and taste testing various fruits and vegetables will change the attitudes of the youth and parents who are participating in gardening and healthful eating.

In this eight-week program, the lessons include several gardening activities, such as planting and caring for various vegetables and plants, and learning the importance of fruits and vegetables they are growing and their nutritional benefits, along with taste-testing recipes that use vegetables they are growing in their own garden.

We are halfway through the program (as of July 2018), and the preschoolers have learned about different gardens, good and bad critters, seeds and roots. The preschoolers will learn about stems, leaves, flowers and fruits in future lessons, along with continuing to care for their own vegetable garden.

You, too, can incorporate a similar program for the youth in your community. Beginning a youth garden is a great way to get the youth involved and engaged, and help them experience the benefits of gardening activities. They’ll not only learn how to plant and care for their garden, but they will learn about the fruits and vegetables they’re growing.

You can still start some seeds such as lettuce and radishes and watch them grow. Try these tips:

  • Find a good location for your garden. You can do pots, raised beds or a community garden. Test the soil to make sure it’s fertile enough to provide nourishment for the growing vegetables.
  • Keep in mind easy vegetables to grow in North Dakota, and allow the children to choose their own vegetables. The vegetables that grow well in North Dakota include beets, carrots, green beans, lettuce, onion, potatoes, pumpkins, snap peas, tomatoes and zucchini.
  • Provide gardening tools for the youth to use when planting the vegetables they chose.
  • Offer the youth cold water to drink throughout gardening. You also may want to provide a healthful snack after they wash their hands. This snack could  be an activity in which they create a healthful recipe using some of the fruits and vegetables they are growing.

For more information on gardening and how to engage the youth in your community, visit the NDSU Extension website at www.ag.ndsu.edu.

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Sponsored in part by the Sanford Health Foundation.

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