It’s such a simple thing, really. Dirt, seeds, water, sun, plants.
Our vegetable garden is in full swing at this time of the summer and I’ve come to consider growing food for ourselves both a privilege and a spiritual necessity. Doing so with a child in tow makes the experience all the sweeter. Every day we go outside and Theo says, “let’s check out the garden,” and then she runs all knock-kneed over to the entrance of our little fenced-in enclosure. She walks through the rows of onions and says the long green stalks brushing against her are like “going through a carwash.” She examines and gently pets the green tomatoes, and digs in the dirt at the edge of a bed with her little spade. Sometimes she ‘plants’ things she’s already picked, patting them down with great concentration. She can identify dill, and mint, and swiss chard. I am a proud mum.
The initial planting of the garden only held Theo’s interest for a little while; Chris prepared the beds and I dug little holes for her to drop the seeds into. I don’t know for sure that she fully grasps the connection between what we did months ago and what the garden looks like now, soft and leafy and very green. We pick zucchinis and she puts them into a big bowl; I carry them inside and chop them up and use them to make pasta primavera. When we all sit down to eat, Chris and I talk about how amazing it is that we grew the zucchini we’re eating right at this moment! Sometimes she responds with an enthusiastic, “yah!” …and sometimes she’s fishing her fork out of her milk. That’s fine.
She does understand that when we pick all the berries, we then have to wait til the next day for more berries to ripen in their place. She also knows that plants need water, and she loves using the watering can for the herb pots on our deck. We read stories about the seasons, and giggle at the Frog and Toad story where Toad sings to his seeds because he thinks they are afraid to grow.
I don’t want to get all woo-woo earth-mother on you here, but I think that all of this should be essential for a kid to experience, in some form, from a very young age. Getting their hands dirty is fun and tactile, learning about where food really comes from is so important, and seeing the results, the little miracles that ensue, is so gratifying. I’m still pretty in awe of it all.
Here’s an interesting article I read in The Atlantic, it’s titled, “How Nature Resets our Minds and Bodies.” And here are some websites offering tips for starting a kid’s garden (even if you don’t have a big backyard) and ways to get them interested in the process. I’ll leave you with that food for thought, and about a zillion more pictures of us in the garden, from both this year and last. Thank you for reading (now go outside!). xx Shanan