Get out and grow with the family

Published 1:14 pm Saturday, May 19, 2012

Making gardening fun can get kids coming back for more

There are many reasons to garden with your kids — whether it be the memories, the enhanced healthy eating or the learning about nature.

But how do you get kids involved in having fun in the garden so they want to keep coming back for more? Kids are naturally attracted to anything dirty; I speak from personal experience on that one.  So capitalize on that opportunity by showing the kids some fun in the “dirt.” Here are five easy ways to make gardening fun for kids:

•Rent them their own garden space.  Kids love to have things that are their own, and if you can work out a deal where the kids put in the time and you put in the dime (at the end of the season by paying for the veggies they produce), you are not only helping them build an entrepreneurial spirit, but also getting them invested in gardening.

Email newsletter signup

•Let the kids determine what they want to plant.  Kids love choices and if you give them a choice of what they want to plant, they won’t get the feeling of being forced into this activity.  Some examples of easy choices to offer – types (above or below ground vegetables), colors (red, green, yellow, orange), themes (pizza, salsa or salad) or the time it takes to grow.

•Create garden markers as a family.  An easy way is to get some small river rocks – the smooth, flat kind – and use a permanent marker to “decorate” the rock with the name of the fruit or vegetable, maybe even drawing a picture of the fruit or vegetable on the rock if there is room.  Decorating the garden in a kid-friendly style will invite the kids in.

•Give kids the appropriate-sized tools.  There is no question that having the right tools available for kids to use in the garden makes them want to continue to work in the garden.

Some things you could include in a gardening bag for your child: rain boots, garden gloves, watering can, small shovel and raking tool, kneeling board and a recipe book.  Have the kids decorate the gardening bag with pictures of fruits and vegetables.

•Have a garden-side picnic.  Throughout the season, celebrate what’s coming out of the garden with a garden-side picnic. Kids will have fun planning the picnic and packing the picnic basket even if the location is just in your own backyard. Better yet, invite the neighbor kids over for a little taste of your garden too.

There are many upcoming classes for the Sprouts Garden Program at Austin Hy-Vee, including “Grow the Rainbow,” “Kid-Friendly Herbs” and more.  Classes begin in June.  Check the Hy-Vee website (,  click on the Health Tab, then click Hy-Vee Dietitians and select Austin) for details and register soon as classes fill up quickly.

Garden Patch Muffin Tin Pizzas

Garden Patch Muffin Tin Pizzas

Serves 12 (1 pizza each)

Here is a perfect recipe for the garden-side picnic:

 All you need

•1 (16 oz) loaf frozen 100% whole wheat bread dough, thawed

•1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cherry tomatoes

•1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper

•1/4 cup finely chopped broccoli

•1/4 cup finely chopped cauliflower

•12 tsp Hy-Vee pizza sauce, divided

•12 tbsp Hy-Vee mozzarella cheese, divided

 All you do

1. Spray a large knife with cooking spray and cut thawed loaf into 12 equal pieces. Flatten each piece into a disk and place in muffin cups sprayed with cooking spray.

2. Combine cherry tomatoes, green pepper, broccoli and cauliflower in a small bowl.

3. Place 1 teaspoon pizza sauce on crust in each muffin cup. Divide vegetable mixture among pizzas (about 1 heaping tablespoon each) and sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon cheese.

4. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 to 17 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and crust is golden brown. Let rest in muffin cups 2 minutes before removing.

Nutrition facts per serving: 120 calories, 2.5g fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 5mg cholesterol, 240mg sodium, 17g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 3g sugar, 6g protein.