By Miranda Culvert
Nature and food depend upon each other, from growing and harvesting grains and vegetables, to raising livestock. Teaching kids about food helps to promote a healthy diet. In Kern County, children will thrive with good eating habits and by staying active.
But how do you convince a child that ordinary white milk is better than ice cream? Or carrots are tastier than French fries? How can a plain apple out-crunch one coated in candy?
When it comes to childhood education, the earlier you start with this, the easier it will be to get kids on a lifelong plan of healthy eating.
Setting up your own garden is the first step to teaching kids about how things grow.
If you have the space outside, let the kids help dig a small plot of land. Gardening teaches children about soil, bugs, the role of earthworms, and patience. It gives them a sense of responsibility and what it means to eat well. Vegetables are part of that package, so encourage them to plant the kinds they like. Dig the garden in an area where it will receive at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.
Indoor gardens are also popular. Plant in containers and place them under special lighting. Go the water way by purchasing a hydroponic gardening system for the house or garage.
Interest children in their garden by …
- Letting each child have his or her own space.
- Tell them to go play in the dirt!
- Buy child-sized gardening tools, seed pots, gloves, and sun protection.
Plant in colors: Red tomatoes. Orange carrots. Green peppers. Yellow squash. Purple onions. The list is endless! Kids are not known for patience, but they can keep track of growing plants with photographs, drawings, and measurements.
Take a Field Trip
Hands-on experiences are great ways to teach children about growing their own food.
Community gardens with their greenery, vegetables, and fruits are attractive to young eyes — kids want to play in the dirt and “help.”
Botanical gardens attract bees to their colorful blooms and are fun to watch. Talk about how these buzzy pollinators distribute their nectar to feed the florals.
Kern’s Canyon and Lake Ming are among many places to explore nature in the Bakersfield area.
Contact the Kern County Food System Assessment to arrange a children’s educational visit. The coalition includes farmers, consumers, policymakers, agriculturalists, retailers, and others whose goal is to strengthen Kern County’s food system.
Enjoy a drive through the country where you might see a few milk cows, beef steer, sheep, and chickens. Toss a line into a stream for some fresh fish. Talk about how all these critters feed humans and other animals.
Children love stories. Tales about nature and farming help kids to understand the world around them. With so many children’s stories about food, farmers, and agriculture available at your local bookstore or library, you can find a lot to read. Some books to consider?
- It’s Milking Time by Phyllis Alsdurf. A young girl who lives on a dairy farm helps her father care for their cows and calves. The story details how the farm provides milk, butter, and cheese to stores and farmers’ markets.
- Food and Farming (Geography for Fun) by Pam Robson. Interactive projects and easy text give children the opportunity to see where food comes from and how it is produced.
- Why Do We Need Bees? By Katie Daynes. Because they are stinging insects, bees always seem to get a bad rap. But in this colorful book, children learn why bees are important to flowers.
- Before We Eat: From Farm to Table by Pat Brisson. Not just for kids, this book lets us all appreciate the hard work it takes to get our food. There is NO Food Fairy!
Natural resources and food systems go together. Where our food comes from is a special kind of magic. Teaching children about animals, planting, and farming is the start to protecting — and respecting — Mother Earth.
Miranda Culvert has been gardening since she was three years old, thanks to her parents who owned a produce stand. She has passed her love of gardening onto her three children, one of whom has a booth at the local farmers market