Trying to get your kids excited about eating healthy and trying new vegetables? Think back to the last meal you made that you worked really hard on. Maybe you were trying to impress friends or cooking for the holidays. Perhaps you wanted to try out a new recipe. Do you remember the sense of accomplishment when you placed the dishes on the table? Recall the pride you felt when everyone hungrily dug into their food, impressed with both the look and the taste.
The best way to get kids excited about eating healthy is to help them gain their own sense of accomplishment by getting them involved in the food preparation.
Why wait until the food makes it to the kitchen though?
Imagine the pride she’d be feeling as your daughter carries the salad bowl to the table, filled with fresh veggies that she grew in her garden. Or your boys, who normally refuse to eat anything green, could be so excited to try the green beans they picked all by themselves!
With the warm weather upon us, now is the perfect time to get out in the backyard, dig in the dirt, get messy, and plant some seeds!
Of course, not all vegetables are created equal. To keep your child’s attention, you’ll want to choose vegetables that are relatively easy to grow, have shorter growing seasons, and are fun and rewarding to harvest.
To make it easier, we’ve compiled our 5 favorite vegetables to grow with kids, along with a few tips about each one.
Bush Beans: We recommend this variety because they don’t grow as tall as other types of green beans, which makes it easier for kids to harvest them on their own. Bush beans only take 4-8 days to sprout, so they’re really fun to watch grow. They mature in 40-65 days and love to grow in direct sun. Have your kids water the soil, but keep the leaves dry.
Lettuce: Lettuce greens are quick and easy to grow, germinating in just 7-10 days. They prefer partial shade and can even be grown in containers if you don’t have a large yard. ‘Head’ varieties mature in 40-50 days and ‘leaf’ varieties mature in 30-35 days. Try growing some of each and see which your kids like best!
Snow Peas: Snow peas grow quick and early, so now is the best time to start planting! Like lettuce, they prefer partial shade; and like the bush beans, they won’t grow too tall or need anything for support. Snow peas will sprout after about 10 days. In 60 days, your kids will be standing barefoot in their garden, munching on crunchy pods right off the vine. If that’s not the meaning of “inner peas” then we don’t know what is!
Cherry Tomatoes: Perhaps no other vegetable feels like summertime as much as tomatoes. Not only are they bright and colorful like strawberries but less work to keep the animals and pests away. Cherry tomatoes like full sun, and it’s best to plant them as seedlings, which means your child’s garden will be green on the first day! So exciting for them! Each seedling will need a 2’ stake (for when they grow taller) and nutrient rich soil (think compost). Again, tell the kids to water the soil, not the leaves. If you have a small yard or live in an apartment, cherry tomatoes will do excellent in containers. After 50-75 days, send the kids out with a basket to gather their tasty harvest!
Potatoes: Potatoes are one of the easiest vegetables to grow and can be cooked so many different ways! Surprisingly, they can also be grown in containers, albeit large ones. Red potatoes will mature faster than white and are usually favored by young eaters. Cut your seed potatoes into chunks with at least two ‘eyes’ per piece (a good chance for older kids to practice their knife skills.) Plant the pieces in furrows about 12-15” apart with the ‘eyes’ pointed up. As the plants grow, mound the soil up around it (this is just an excuse to get dirty) and then harvest when the plant collapses. The kids should have a blast digging around and finding their potatoes! Potatoes can be cooked with so many other vegetables to create a heart-healthy vegetable medley.
Bonus: This one isn’t a vegetable, but what could be more exciting for a kid than watching a giant sunflower grow? Since they take up so much room, plant just one or two in your child’s garden and watch the joy on their faces as it grows taller than they are! Sunflowers sprout in a week and should already be 2 feet tall after one month. For extra fun, choose a ‘confectionary’ variety so that as the flower dries in late summer; you can harvest the seeds and roast them for a tasty (and healthy!) snack.
One last tip: Try staggering your planting by a couple weeks. This will help to accommodate little bodies that get tired or distracted easily, AND it will extend your harvest since your plants will mature at different times rather than all at once. It’s best to spread the harvest out, so you can introduce vegetables to them at different times.
These 5 tasty and easy-to-grow veggies are sure to win over the pickiest eaters! Remember, it’s all about teaching them new skills and letting them work with the food that ends up on their plate, so they can gain a sense of accomplishment and excitement about healthy eating. We can’t wait to hear how it goes.