Letting Kids Help With : Gardening

One of my goals is to feed my son as many whole foods as possible. I want him to appreciate food at its most basic, and I want him to understand where food comes from.

To be able to grow some of that food in our own backyard is a long-held goal. I see pictures of people in their gardens, and I think: Yes, I want that to be us. But I've gotta be honest ... It's more aspirational than anything. I have what you might call a brown thumb.

Still, when we planned our backyard a few years ago, we left a space for a garden, including the lines for the drip system. (That's how serious I was.) But that year I was pregnant and figured I didn't need a second new project. Then, the next year, I had a 9-month-old at planting time ... Um, no thanks. Then, this year, I had a 21-month-old.

So, while I didn't have an abundance of free time to build the full garden (oh, and to LEARN HOW TO GARDEN), I did want to try something. So, my son and I planted (OK, fine, transplanted) three herbs in containers plus one jalapeño plant.

 Cilantro, parsley and basil plants.

Cilantro, parsley and basil plants.

 "We're out of water again, Mom."

"We're out of water again, Mom."

I'm happy to report that two and a half months later: The herbs are STILL ALIVE, people — and I use the parsley in my bone broth and the basil weekly in tomato salads and sauces. The jalapeño is (technically) alive, too, but hardly thriving. Oh well. Three outta four ain't bad.

I'm looking forward to my son taking on more responsibility in our garden (and our garden getting bigger) as he gets older, but as an almost-2-year-old, he's been instrumental in preventing our plants from certain death. He loves going outside and playing with the water, so he reminds me daily that we need to water the plants — not because he knows the plants need water, but because he wants to water them — and the table and his shoes and other plants and weeds and the patio. That's OK. It's a start.

He loves going outside and playing with the water, so he reminds me daily that we need to water the plants — not because he knows the plants need water, but because he wants to water them — and the table and his shoes and other plants and weeds and the patio.

As kids get older, they can help plant, decide what to plant — and, of course, harvest. It's such a great way to help them see where food comes from. It's a fond memory I have of growing up, and I love sharing it with my son, even if it's just a few herbs (for now).

 Is there anything sweeter than a toddler tending to his plants?

Is there anything sweeter than a toddler tending to his plants?