Children love gardens!! If you've ever been around pre-schoolers or young school-aged children, you recognize that they have an innate curiosity for the natural things around them. Be it bugs, animals, flowers or trees, to name a few, they seem to find great joy in the midst of them. Even with all the technology issues that can keep kids inside, the good majority can be pleasantly distracted in natural surroundings. Don't think you can access nature in your small living surroundings? Consider a garden.
Whether container, raised bed, or full-fledged rows of produce, consider the joy you can cultivate in our potentially restricted lifestyles that can make life lighten a whole lot more by bringing the natural in close.
Here are some thoughts:
. Find a sunny spot
. Get some extra dirt, a pail and a shovel and let them stick their hands in it. Some of the best probiotics come from the soil through the skin.
. Use some big pots, terraced shelves, or window boxes for containers
. Make a path
. Assign one of the plantings to each child as their responsibility, as you teach them how to care for it (for really small ones you may need to add a little assistance when they aren't looking)
. Pick easily grown, short germinating varieties and be sure to include something edible, so that when the picking is ready, they can be washed and tasted
. Try some miniature varieties - peppers, carrots, radishes, microgreens…
. Raised beds, short enough for little legs and narrow enough for short arms to reach to the center
. Don't forget some flowers (maybe some that attract butterflies, frogs, or birds)
There are any number of kids gardening kits and ideas on the internet. The point is that we all need a little stress relief. As a parent you might think that this is just another thing to do to entertain your children, but I guarantee that once you get started, this can be just as much of a stress reliever for you and a distraction from the responsibilities we are all under these days. Remember, the goal is not necessarily to provide a whole lot of food for the neighborhood, but to find fun in the midst of chaos. I find that gardening with children is an exercise in the five senses; not just theirs, but yours. It's amazing how watching our children learn about the things around them, can make us smile. At the same time you are teaching them in so many subtle ways, about responsibility, respect for nature, eating good food, "blooming where we are planted", working together, life lessons and so much more.
It's always fun to then turn that food into something yummy. So you are an adventurous mom and don't mind little hands helping in the kitchen, here's a couple of recipes to start you off.
Cheesy Turkey Meatloaf Bites
Cheesy Turkey Meatloaf Bites are perfect for the whole family, but especially for your little one. The best part is they're cooked in mini muffin pans, so they only take 20 minutes to bake. I pack mine with vegetables, and since there's very little salt and no sugary ketchup, I add some cheese which makes every bite taste heavenly. Depending on the age of the child, they may be able to help chop via the processor or at least (with washed hands) help transfer it. It's good for them to see how food gets from the source to the finished product. These are a great substitute for chicken fingers!!
2. Spray a nonstick mini muffin tin with vegetable oil cooking spray or grease with oil.
3. Place the zucchini, onions, bell peppers, carrots, and garlic clove into the food processor and pulse until everything is in tiny pieces.
4. Add the egg, worchestershire sauce, herbs, bread crumbs, cheese, and turkey. Pulse until everything is combined.
5. Place about a tablespoon of the meatloaf mixture in the muffin pans and pack down with a spoon.
6. Bake until the mini turkey loaves are cooked through or an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 165 degrees F, about 20 minutes.
There are any number of smoothie recipes that are fun because they blend so quickly and instantly. At my house it's a great way to get extra nutrition in, make them taste good, and they think they're having a kind of milk shake. The following is a suggestion, but let the internet and your family's personal favorites steer the choices.
Half an apple and a medium carrot make a good base
You can add half a banana or half an avocado to make it thick
Other veggies that taste good that can be added: 1" cucumber peeled, half a celery stalk, a handfull of kale, spinach or arugala
If you don't use a banana, blueberries or raspberries but only 2 fruits at most because of the sugar
A cup of coconut or almond milk
You can even add some pea protein powder if you're going for nutrition.
Blend away!! Bon Apetit!
There's always room for a "garden space". Don't underestimate it's influence to transform.
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