Kid-Style Gardening & Veggie Hunting: A Gluten & Allergen-Free Adventure

by Kathleen Reale

Dairy Free Nut Free Fish Free Soy Free Gluten Free 

Gardens seem to be sprouting up everywhere… from hometown suburban yards, to inner city roof decks and balconies, to the White House lawn. And if gardening doesn’t fit your domain or your lifestyle, the next best thing is a local farmers market.

The shift towards gardening your own vegetables and shopping at a farmer’s market has more than the state of the economy to credit for it’s explosive growth over the past few years. Growing your own vegetables or buying local is not only good for your wallet… but good for your kids creativity and nutrition too! Gardening and farmer’s markets encourages children to ask questions about the foods they eat, and allows them to have a better understanding and empowerment over their food choices… things that are extremely important for children on a gluten-free diet or with food allergies.

But how can you get your children with allergies and celiac disease to start picking their own veggies either off a plant or at a farmer’s market? Here are some pointers to get your ideas and gardens growing!

- Expand your Child’s Horizons! Bring your child to the garden center with you when picking out seeds or seedlings, or take a “field trip” once a week to a local farmer’s market.  Let them choose some of their favorite vegetables to grow or eat, but also encourage them to select one or two vegetables they’ve never tried before.

- The Right Tools: If you have a garden plot, make sure that you get some child-sized rakes and shovels. Have them work the land, get involved in the process and see how their efforts make a difference.

- Contain it: No room for a garden? No worries! Start a container garden. Container gardens are easy to maintain since they require less watering and no weeding. Plus, they are great for city dwellers, or those living in condos or apartments.

- Herbs too! Make sure that you explore the world of herbs with your child. Gardens aren’t just for food! Grow some cat nip for your child to give to his cat, or culture a pot of lavender for your daughter to craft sachets for gifting. Think about ways to creates after-gardening activities that involve your child.

- Give back: Have extra bounty from your garden? Then give back to those in need in your community, food allergy support group, or your neighbors. Have your child include their favorite recipe with the vegetables you give. Explain how “giving back” is essential to relationships and community.

- Cook together: Have your child be your kitchen helper. Encourage them to help you make a fresh tossed salad using just picked or selected vegetables, then have them help measure out the ingredients for homemade gluten or allergen-free salad dressings. They’ll want to try the foods they helped prepare!

From planning and selecting, to planting and harvesting, and to preparing and eating… the more kids know about vegetables the more they’ll love them!

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