Gardening with Your Grandkids: Playing in Dirt Isn’t Just Fun – It’s Healthy, Too!

Playing in the dirt tops the list of fun things for young kids, despite the protests of many well-intentioned grandparents. If you happen to be among that worried lot, put your fears aside.
Dirt is actually beneficial to the long-term health of kids, according to a Northwestern University article, Germs at four, less inflammation at forty.
Studies found early exposure to certain germs, like those found in dirt, actually helps kids’ immune systems regulate inflammation better. In turn, this exposure reduces kids’ risk for many diseases throughout their lives.
For that reason, a family garden is a perfect opportunity to build your grandkids’ immune systems.
Better still, gardening offers lots of other benefits to kids and families.
Through gardening, kids learn responsibility by caring for their own plants. It’s also a great way to help kids learn about and develop an appreciation for science. Another health benefit is that gardening encourages healthier eating. Not to mention, it’s an excellent activity for bonding with grandkids.
So gather up your grandkids and gardening supplies, head outdoors, and get ready for some dirty fun!
Getting started
First, decide where to plant your garden. Then allow a small space for grandkids to have their own garden, too. This will help build enthusiasm for the garden and encourage them to take ownership and responsibility for it. Having their own garden can be exciting and rewarding for kids because they know that they, alone (or with minimal help), grew those little seeds into a marvelous plant.
Next, decide what to plant. For young children, consider fast-growing plants they’re familiar with. Little kids also love plants that are colorful or have strong scents.
Allow older kids to choose what they want to grow. But keep their personalities in mind. For example, suggest plants that are easy to care for and grow quickly for more impatient personalities.
Include your grandkids in planning and preparation as much as possible. Remember, this stage is as much fun for kids as it is for grandparents and helps build enthusiasm. Let your grandkids help you draw up the garden plan. If they’re old enough, they can also create their own shopping list.
When you go shopping for the supplies, take your grandkids along so they can select their own seeds and tools. For the safety of young children, look for kids’ gardening tools made of durable plastic.
Planting your garden
When you begin planting, show how to plant and space seeds. Then have your grandchildren water the seeds as directed.
To help grandchildren take responsibility for their own garden, put a daily gardening task list on the refrigerator.
Also, to help grandkids maintain enthusiasm, suggest keeping a garden log. Kids can have fun recording the date of plantings, each day’s gardening activities, when each plant sprouts, the amount of growth of the plants, and the harvesting.
Finally, after harvesting, have your grandkids help you prepare the vegetables. Try different ways of preparing or cooking them to help kids develop a life-long love for fresh, healthy veggies.

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