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From a kid’s viewpoint, microgreens are the perfect garden.
No weeding, no digging, no endless wait before the harvest. Micro-gardening gives all the benefits of outdoor gardening- except for exercise and sunshine- but without the hassles, wait, and expense. Each child can grow their very own crops which develops a sense of individual accomplishment and self-confidence.
Gardening provides plenty of life lessons
Kids growing microgreens from seeds that they have carefully nurtured develop a sense of purpose, responsibility, patience, critical thinking skills, an awareness of healthy eating habits, and the connection between choice and consequence. For parents struggling to find ways to encourage their kids to eat a healthy and balanced diet, microgreens can be both a teaching tool and a solution to the problem of not liking ‘green things’.
Research involving children and gardening
“Results indicate that school gardening may affect children’s vegetable consumption, including improved recognition of, attitudes toward, preferences for, and willingness to taste vegetables. Gardening also increases the variety of vegetables eaten.” (1) According to multiple studies, gardening in a school, club, or home environment is not only fun for children and youth, but can encourage a life-long, positive change in eating habits.
How to involve your children and youth in growing microgreens
- Give each child their own set of trays to provide a sense of ownership in the outcome. Planting and growing microgreens is easy enough that even young children can do most of the ‘work’ involved, even without supervision. Measuring the water and seeds is the most complicated part- and is a good exercise in being precise. Show each step, and then allow them to do it themselves. Microgreens are very forgiving as they grow and develop.
- Make it a non-stressful activity for yourself and your child. Set up the learning area so that you are not concerned about a little water, soil, or seeds being spilled. A kitchen counter is an excellent choice- easy to clean with water easily available.
- After you have grown the first crop of microgreens together, allow each person to choose which seeds to grow next. (2) Encourage children to grow many varieties as this also promotes confidence in tasting new vegetables. However, for those green-averse young people, make it ‘ok’ to grow a favorite type multiple times. The purpose is to encourage the eating of vegetables and each child has a different internal timeline for when they want to experiment with a new taste.
- Keep the growing microgreens near where they play and work. Keep them in sight to encourage curiosity. Show curiosity as you watch the growing process with the child. Curiosity is contagious!
- Make remembering to water an easy routine by attaching the task to something that is regularly done. Just before or after a meal or snack time, or anything else that is done on a regular, predictable basis. Make watering a time to also taste their crop each day, and to notice growth and changes. In short, make it fun – but quick.
Extend the learning
- During the summer, if you have an outside garden area, encourage them to carefully pluck out one of each type of microgreen and grow it into a full-sized plant. All of the microgreens can be grown in pots, buckets, and other containers with potting mix. They can also be grown in most outdoor gardens with the appropriate climate. If you are not sure how to grow a plant to maturity, take the opportunity to encourage research and let the student teach YOU. Compare the taste, texture, smell, and time involved between the microgreen and the full-grown version.
- When it is time to harvest, encourage the new gardener to make their own decision on what to do with their harvest. Put their tiny greens on a salad or taco? In a Sandwich or smoothie? How about using them in peanut butter balls, cookies, or other fun recipes? Encourage creativity!
- Embrace failure as a learning experience. Failure happens to all of us, and when kids are growing microgreens, there will be opportunities to both succeed and fail! Learning from forgetting to water or over-watering, from dropping a tray on the ground or having a pet get into a project are all opportunities to discover that a setback is not 'the end of the world'. Discover the positive instead of focusing on the failure and it will become something they will be willing to try again.
- Encourage sharing. Share not only the veggies with a family member or friend but share pictures of their work on a parent’s social media or by text to a friend or grandparent. Make a meal out of their crop and share the recipe or directions. For an additional space to share pictures, join The Microgreen Hub on Facebook.
- Ratcliffe MM, Merrigan KA, Rogers BL, Goldberg JP. The Effects of School Garden Experiences on Middle School-Aged Students’ Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors Associated With Vegetable Consumption. Health Promotion Practice. 2011;12(1):36-43. doi:10.1177/1524839909349182
- Making Choices- When to offer support, When to Step Back: https://childmind.org/article/helping-kids-make-decisions/