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Garden with your kids

May 15, 2012

If you want to spend some high-quality time with your children, look no farther than your backyard or community garden.

Gardening with your children offers an opportunity to relax, be active and have fun together while preparing them for life.

The National Gardening Association surveyed garden program leaders and found that gardening improves the following characteristics in children:

*Environmental attitudes
*Self-confidence
*Social skills
*Leadership skills
*Nutritional attitudes
*Scholastic achievement

Gardening not only helps children gain lifelong skills, it also provides an excellent way to increase physical activity for parents and children. Raking and bagging leaves, digging, spading, tilling, laying sod and general gardening can help you burn 160 to 200 calories for every 30 minutes of activity.

Have a picky eater in the family? Gardening may be your answer. Research shows that children are more likely to eat their fruits and vegetables (or at least try them) if they help grow them. Gardening also provides a mini nutrition lesson for your kids. Be sure to discuss how plants, like people, need food and water to grow and stay healthy.

What activities can my child do in the garden? Children can help with nearly any gardening task, such as, planting the seeds, watering the plants and picking the food. Here is a list of foods that are easy for kids to grow:

*Beets
*Carrots
*Cucumbers
*Green beans
*Peppers
*Tomatoes
*Zucchini
*Onions

Nurturing their plants teaches children a sense of responsibility and gives them a feeling of accomplishment.

Starting a garden does not have to be a huge expense. The main idea is to simply get outside, dig in the dirt and see what you can grow together.

In case you’re looking for a garden plot, there are still four left to rent at the Valley City Community Gardens. Contact Ellen at the Barnes County Extension Office, (701) 845-8549, or ellen.bjelland@ndsu.edu for more information.

For more gardening tips and helpful nutrition information, visit www.ndsu.edu/eatsmart or see these publications:

*“Gardening with Kids A Win-Win Opportunity,” www.ag.ndsu.edu/foodwise/eatsmart/2010-eat-smart-play-hard-magazine/gard...

*Gardening with Children,” www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/plantsci/hortcrop/fn1372.html

*“Garden with Your Kids,” www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442463750&terms=gardening

Sources: Abby Plucker, NDSU student dietitian, and Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension food and nutrition specialist

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