The idea of getting kids into the garden evokes equal parts enthusiasm and fear for most gardeners. Passing on the love and art of gardening to the next generation is important, but the garden is also a place of solace and already requires its own share of patience and nurturing. Can you find a balance between the benefits and challenges? If so, the little ones will benefit in body, mind and soul.

Children who grow their own food are more likely to eat fresh fruits and vegetables and express a preference for these foods. Garden work is physical activity that gets kids moving, builds muscle and burns calories.

Gardening requires planning and organization; make sure to include kids in these stages so they can develop these skills. Maintaining the garden requires analysis, reasoning, decision-making, etc. Successfully producing food, flowers or other plants teaches patience and builds self-esteem. Garden work is also as therapeutic to children as it is to adults, improving mood, focus and sense of well-being, plus relieving stress.

How do you get started? Decide what to grow and where to grow it first, with the kids involved if possible. The ages, interests, and mental and physical abilities of the children involved will also play a role.

If you are already gardening, get your kids involved in what you are already doing. Give them a space that is their own to give some ownership and be accepting if their garden ends up a little messier and weedier than your garden.

Don’t have kids? Borrow (with permission, of course) nieces and nephews, friends’ kids,…