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Getting Kids to Eat Their Vegetables!

Many parents struggle with the daily battle of getting their children to eat vegetables.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Many parents struggle with the daily battle of getting their children to eat vegetables. According to the USDA’s ChooseMyPlate.gov website, the nutritional recommendation of vegetables for youth ranges from 1½ cups per day for children 4 to 8 years old to 2½ - 3 cups for youth in the 14-18 year old range.  There are numerous health benefits to having a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, such as reducing the risk of stroke, Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and certain cancers.  However, these benefits won’t influence most kids to increase their vegetable consumption.  For the parents of those children, here is a great suggestion!

     The learning philosophy of 4-H is “experiential learning,” which literally means learning by doing.  A good way to get children to eat their vegetables is to get them growing their own vegetables!  Offer children a small plot of land if it’s available.  If that isn’t an option, get them a set of pots for a container garden.  Allow children to have their very own gardening tools such as a watering bucket, work gloves, and child-sized shovel.  Tomatoes and radishes are good easy-to-grow plants to begin. Not only will children be more willing to eat vegetables they’ve grown themselves, but there are numerous other benefits of youth gardening.

     Children learn responsibility for their space, as well as develop patience while waiting for their plants to grow and develop.  A sense of pride is created in the children when they realize what they have accomplished.  In addition, their self-confidence receives an extra boost.  Adult supervision and some coaching is required for the garden to be successful, which throws in an added benefit of creating “quality family time”.  Ultimately, children will reap the reward of knowledge.  Through their garden they will learn about working the soil, where plants come from, how to plant seeds, when to water plants, along with specific details about the plants they choose to grow.

     School gardens have been gaining popularity recently.  Many schools in Garland County have been incorporating school gardens and greenhouses into their curriculum or as part of their after-school programs.  Students gain hands-on experience with growing plants and have the opportunity to apply their classroom knowledge to real life situations.   School gardens may spark the student’s interest in gardening and encourage them to grow a garden of their own.

     Children can even use their garden as a 4-H project!  Keeping records about their gardening project will help them learn to monitor what they do weekly and monthly.  As they jot down the progress of their plants, they see for themselves what works, what doesn’t work, and figure out how they can correct problems that occur.  Now is the perfect time to start preparing for a “youth garden space” right in your own back yard!

By Linda Bates
County Extension Agent - 4-H
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Linda Bates
County Extension Agent - 4-H
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
236 Woodbine Hot Springs AR 71901
(501) 623-6841
lbates@uaex.edu

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