Tag Archive for: fruit and vegetables

15 Benefits of Teaching Kids to Grow Food

Children, particularly the very young, absolutely love growing and tending to plants and seedlings.Children, particularly the very young, absolutely love growing and tending to plants and seedlings. It’s an absolutely fascinating activity for them and gives them a real sense of both wonder and achievement. Growing fruit, vegetables and herbs is even better, though! They get all the fun and benefits of the growing activity and they then get to eat the results! Growing food is fun and it also has many benefits for children — today we’ll take a look at some of them.

“In every gardener is a child who loves to play in the dirt. In every child is a gardener ready to grow.” (LeAura Alderson)

Children don’t need a garden or allotment to grow food. A patio, courtyard, balcony or windowsill will do, so long as plants have water, soil and light.

1. Growing Food is Educational

Growing food teaches children about life, the biology of plants and about where food comes.Growing herbs, vegetables and fruit is educational for children on many different levels, as we’ll see. It teaches children about life and the biology of plants. It also teaches children about where food comes from and what skills and care are needed in the process. They’ll learn so much while growing edible herbs, fruit and vegetables — and also learn about themselves in the process. Growing plants, herbs and produce also supports several areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum.

2. Children Learn New Skills Growing Food

“Growing food was the first activity that gave us enough prosperity to stay in one place, form complex social groups, tell our stories, and build our cities”

The quotation above, from Barbara Kingsolver, pretty much sums up the enormous positive impact that learning to grow food has had on the human race. And there’s no reason why the skills necessary to successfully grow food shouldn’t start in the very young. From preparing the soil, germinating and sprouting seeds, tending to seedlings and caring for plants as they grow, these are all great skills for children to learn along the way.

3. Growing Food Helps Children Appreciate Nature

“Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden.” (Robert Brault)

Growing food allows children to witness, first hand, the miracle of life as living things flourish and bloom.Growing food allows children to witness, first hand, the miracle of life and to see how tending and caring for a living thing allows it to flourish and bloom. It’ll give children a real sense of wonder about nature and life itself.

4. Growing Food Teaches ‘Green’ Values

“It’s more than just high quality food for the family table; it’s growing the food in a way that does not harm the environment.” (Robert Patterson)

Growing food is also more likely to give children a long-term sense of the importance of nature, the natural world and about caring for the environment. Studies have shown that children who are introduced to activities involving nature at a young age are more likely to lead ‘greener’ lifestyles — even into adulthood.

5. Home-Grown Food is Healthy

Teaching children to learn how to grow plants, fruit, herbs and vegetables is also likely to lead to long-term healthier lifestyles. As the website FoodRevolution.org puts it:

“Growing your own food may be one of the most powerful steps you can take for the health of yourself, your family, and your planet.”

6. Children Learn to Appreciate Trial & Error

Learning from mistakes is an important skill to learn. Indeed, many of the world’s most successful business owners say they would never be where they are today had they not made mistakes — and learnt from them — along the way. It’s therefore important that children come to realise that small failures are all part of longer-term success, so long as they learn from the mistakes.

Growing food can save the household money!7. Growing Food Can Save Money

“Growing your own food is like printing your own money.” (Ron Finley)

A lovely by-product of children growing herbs, vegetables or fruit is that it can save the household money. That’s totally feasible, particularly when children’s food-growing skills have been well and truly honed.

8. Children Can Eat What They Have Grown

“Children who grow what they eat will often eat what they grow.”

As well as enjoying the whole food-growing activity and learning from it, children and their families can enjoy eating the result!That quote is so true. As well as enjoying the whole food-growing activity and learning from it, of course the result is something that children – and perhaps the whole family – can eat! It’s a win-win from every perspective.

9. Eating Home-Grown Food Can Make Children Try Different Things

“If kids grow kale, kids eat kale. If they grow tomatoes, they eat tomatoes. But when none of this is presented to them, if they’re not shown how food affects the mind and the body, they blindly eat whatever you put in front of them.

Ron Finley’s quotation above explains it very well. If a child grows something edible, it’s almost a given that they will eat the produce — or at the very least try it. Encouraging them to grow their own edible produce is a great way to make them more interested in eating healthier things like fruit and vegetables etc. It may even have the knock-on effect of making them more likely to try cooking and food preparation — yet more new skills!

10. Growing Food at Home Helps to Make Bonds

Growing herbs, vegetables, fruit and any plant will give children a real sense of wonder about nature and life itself.Children will inevitably ask questions and ask for guidance and help when they first start their food-growing activities. Parents or guardians will probably enjoy the task too and it’s one of those activities that’s bound to be a great joint effort. As such, this partnership can be a great way to bond.

11. Growing Food Gets Children Away from Electronic Screens

Such a natural activity is also a wonderful antidote to backlit screens, TVs, mobile devices and electronic games. It’s like going back to basics in some ways, but in others it will teach children so much more by getting ‘hands on’ with real-life, useful activities.

12. Children Learn to Become More Responsible

After all, caring for another living entity requires their attention, a responsibility and even empathy to ensure the wellbeing of the little plants and seedlings. These are great lessons and good skills to encourage.

13. Children Learn the Importance of Patience

Growing plants from seed or cuttings requires effort and patience and that's a great virtue to teach young children.In this day and age, everything seems to be more rushed than ever and there could even be a tendency towards instant gratification with little effort (from TV programmes, videos and electronic games, for example). Growing plants from seed or cuttings requires effort and patience and that’s a great virtue to teach young children. They need to understand that ‘good things come to those who wait’.

14. Home-Grown Food Tastes Better!

Food really does taste better, more often than not, when it’s home-grown. Tastier food, particularly the natural, healthy kind, is never a bad thing!

15. Growing Food is a Fun, Entertaining Activity for Kids

That’s important in itself. Children love growing food and plants! It brings them all these benefits and more but is also a very entertaining activity. It’s also a much more worthwhile one than many others. Teaching children to grow food is a win-win for everyone — children, families and the planet.

“By the process of directly working in harmony with nature, we do the one thing most essential to change the world — we change ourselves.” (Jules Dervaes)

A Wonderful Nursery & Pre-School in Birmingham, Near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

Leaps & Bounds nursery & pre-school is in Edgbaston, Birmingham B16, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood & Smethwick

Children grow plants and herbs at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery.Children are encouraged to take part in growing plants, including herbs, at Leaps & Bounds. We are also an outstanding Forest School, so children get ample exposure to nature and all the benefits of the natural world. If you are looking for a good childcare nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham, or high quality pre-schools or nurseries near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood or Smethwick, please get in touch — we’d be happy to show you and your child around the setting and to answer any questions that you might have. You can also simply apply for a childcare place below …

Next Time …

In our next post, we develop this topic further by taking a look at some exciting food growing activities that children can undertake at home. Also don’t miss our subsequent article about growing microgreens — a fun, nutritious activity for under-fives.

Healthy Eating & Getting Active – for Kids in Birmingham

Here at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, we believe a healthy eating and a good exercise regimen is vitally important for young children. With that in mind, we have adopted the ‘Startwell’ programme, which has been rolled out across the Birmingham area. The programme is aimed at Early Years settings like ours, health professionals and parents. After all, we should all try to play our part in creating a healthy environment for children to grow up in, whether at home or at nursery or pre-school. We have already achieved levels 1 and 2 in the programme.

The Startwell programme’s 7 key aims:

  1. To demonstrate good behaviour and be a good role model for children;
  2. For children to snack just twice a day as part of a healthy eating lifestyle;
  3. For children to accomplish 3 hours of physical activity every day;
  4. To give children food portion sizes that are right for them;
  5. For children to try to avoid sitting still for prolonged periods of time;
  6. For children to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day;
  7. To encourage improvement in children’s movement and motor skills.

We’ll explain each of the 7 aims in more detail …

Demonstrating good behaviour to be a good role model

Children learn by copying what they see around them. As a parent or adult involved in the child’s life, it is therefore vitally important that the behaviours they see and copy are positive. At Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, for example, we eat fruit and vegetables together at snack time and involve the children in having fun while preparing food. We’d also like to encourage parents to share meal times together when at home with the family. Another example is sharing physical activity together to encourage motor skills and coordination. This can be great fun when it’s made part of a game and it only takes a few small changes to make a difference.

Snacking only twice a day for healthy eating

Our little ones have smaller stomachs than adults, so naturally need less food. However, it’s also important for them to keep up their energy levels during the day. In view of this, the children at the nursery follow the Startwell guidelines on healthy eating. As part of this, they have two snacks a day in addition to their three meals. Importantly, they’re healthy snacks, like fruit, vegetables, rice cakes or toast. There are plenty more healthy snack ideas on the Startwell site — click this link if you need some inspiration at home.

3 hours of physical activity a day

The government recommends roughly 3 hours a day of physical activity for pre-school children. This can be spread throughout the day, though. Physical activity positively impacts not only on physical health but also in the development of a child’s brain. Right from birth, floor based play and water activities are beneficial so long, of course, as they’re done under close supervision in a safe environment. Physical activity can have a positive effect on weight, blood pressure and general well-being. Of course, it is also is beneficial as a way of improving motor and social skills.

Giving children the right sized food portions

It’s important to remember our children’s stomachs are smaller than our own, which is especially important when it comes to portion size. Offering over-large quantities of food can sometimes overwhelm young children, so it’s important to get the portion size correct. You can always offer more if they clean their plates and are still hungry. We often employ this approach at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery. If it’s not clear when a young child or toddler is full, we’ll look out for certain signs. These include ignoring their plate, shutting their mouth when food is given, or even wanting to spit food out. The Startwell programme offers lots of handy tips on this and meal times in general.

Avoiding sitting still for prolonged periods

Under fives shouldn’t be inactive for more than one hour at a time, with the exception of when they are asleep. Increased inactivity has been linked to weight gain and lower cognitive development. Studies have also shown that increased physical activity during early years encourages greater physical activity once we’re adults. It also encourages physical, social, emotional and intellectual skills to develop. So the Startwell message is clear — sitting positions should be primarily used for the purpose they were designed for. That means only at meal times, during car journeys and at formal lesson time.

5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day

Did you know that getting a variety of 5 portions of fruit and veg’ a day is essential for getting vitamins, minerals and fibre? They may also reduce the risk of illness in later life. By eating 5 portions a day, it helps to maintain a healthy weight, keeps us regular and reduces the risks of some diseases, including type 2 diabetes.

Even young kids can follow the 5-a-day guidelines. 5-a-day can come from a variety of sources — fresh, frozen and even tinned fruit and vegetables all contain essential nutrients. However, if you are buying tinned, stick to fruit in juice or vegetables in water.

But how big is a portion for children under five? When it comes to fruit, a portion is generally a whole piece of fruit e.g. a medium sized apple, banana or orange. If you’re talking about something small like peas or tinned corn, a portion would be roughly what would fit into your hand, or the size of 3 heaped tablespoons. For adults it’s about 80g.

One last clarification is needed: 5 portions a day, doesn’t mean eating 5 portions of fruit and 5 portions of vegetables per day. It usually comprises a combination of the two.

Improving children’s movement and motor skills

Movement and motor skills allow kids to enjoy sports and other physical activities whilst becoming fitter physically. Fundamental movement skills are important for children’s physical development. After perfecting these skills, children can go on to develop sport-specific and more complex movement skills later on.

These activities need not cost any money. Children can engage in physical games, make active stories, dig in the garden and so on. The key is to make such activities fun.
Babies’ brains are incomplete at birth but movement and physical activity play a significant role in creating nerve connections within the brain. These provide the foundations for all future learning, which includes learning at school. Therefore, even before a child can walk or talk, the child needs to begin setting the right foundations. Recent data shows that an increasing number of 3 year olds are behind in developing these skills. In contrast, Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery is keen to get kids on the right track, right from the start. Following the Startwell programme guidelines helps us — and children — towards that aim.

Our extra-curricular classes

We also offer 3 extra-curricular classes:

  • Kitsacademy – A fun session, with qualified coaches, that teaches a range of skills including football, teamwork and coordination skills.
  • Rhythm Time – Weekly sessions, tailored to each age group, where children learn to develop skills including singing, socialising, speech and coordination.
  • Active Adventurers – Achieved through adventure stories, children develop motor skills, including balance and coordination, during multi-sport sessions.

More information

More details of Startwell itself can be found on their website at startwellbirmingham.co.uk. Here at Leaps and bounds, we are pleased to play our part and you can find details of this on our “About us” page. Contact Leaps and Bounds Day Nursery & Pre-school in Edgbaston, near Birmingham, if you’d like more information. That can be about anything including healthy eating, keeping children active and our approach to these. You may also want to discuss a possible place for your child at the nursery and pre-school. Call 0121 246 4922, send us a message here or book a visit here and we’ll be happy to help.

The above information is for guidance are only and does not constitute health advice.

Photo: Patrick Fore