One of my favorite daily summer rituals is walking through the garden with my two young children, harvesting vegetables and creating plans for the day’s meals. Because gardening with children is a part of our daily life, and the kids are active participants in the planning, growing, and harvesting of our garden, it’s not a big leap to eating the produce from our garden. In fact, I credit having a garden with having kids who will eat almost any vegetable – it’s just what we do in our family.
Harvesting is what gets my children the most excited about gardening, and I’ve learned over the years how to make garden harvesting with children a fun and productive activity.
Tips for Harvesting with Children
1) Make it routine
Like I said, we have a daily harvesting routine – we finish breakfast and then head outside to the gardens before it gets too hot. When I forget, the kids prompt me! When it’s a natural part of the rhythm of our day, it gets done, joyfully.
2) Give them a basket
Carrying a basket full of produce back to the house is such a fun activity for young kids. So I make sure that we always have baskets in the house, right next to the door and ready to be filled with vegetables! We love these small bolga baskets, but you can also search your local thrift stores for baskets!
3) Create a harvesting culture
In our family, we have our “harvest walks,” “harvesting baskets,” and “harvesting pouches” (when you forget your basket, you pull up your t-shirt and fill it with produce!).
4) Use descriptive language
Of course you want your kids to harvest vegetables and fruit when they are ripe and ready to be harvested. I find that instead of using words like “big” and “small,” it helps to use more descriptive language. For instance, instead of saying, “harvest zucchini before it gets too big.” I might say, “harvest zucchini when it’s the size of your arm, from your elbow to your fingertips.” This gives kids a very concrete way to know exactly when a vegetable is ready to be picked.
5) Get them involved in the kitchen
After harvesting, take the next step and get them involved with the preparation of harvest-based meals. My youngest, Everett, LOVES okra, so any chance he gets, he will harvest and chop okra for a stir-fry. My kids each have their own child-size cutting board, and a small knife whose tip we have filed down to a curve. (Note: This year, at the ages of 6 and 9, we gifted the kids each their own pocket knife and taught them how to use it for carving, cutting, and harvesting. This model is the one we love.)
Enjoy the bounty of the season by harvesting with children, and if you are looking for support to create a more sustainable, local kitchen and home, be sure to check out my online course, The Homestead Kitchen.