Family Health Challenge: Gardening together

We share family health challenges you can take on with your entire family. Each challenge is a way to boost your health and strengthen your family.

This time, we’re offering up a suggestion you may never have thought of as a family activity. But it’s a good one!

We challenge you to start a gardening hobby with your entire family.

At this point, you may be wondering what gardening has to do with family health. Well, a lot actually!

Benefits of gardening

Gardening offers a ton of health benefits for people of all ages. Those who spend time gardening benefit from:

  • Less stress. In fact, one study found that gardening helps manage stress better than other hobbies such as reading. Gardening was found to lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body. Even kids can experience stress, making this a benefit those of all ages can reap! That’s definitely family health-related.
  • More physical activity. You might not think of gardening as something that gets your heart pumping, but it does! Pulling weeds, lifting plants and tools, and even moving around to plant or maintain your garden will all work your body in multiple ways. Gardening is technically considered “moderate” physical activity.
  • Better mood. Gardening is also known as a mood booster. Researchers think that may be because you’re planting a little “faith in the future” as you literally plant fruits and veggies or flowers in a garden.
  • Enhanced vitamin D production. Being out in the sun with your skin exposed encourages your body to produce vitamin D — which helps the body absorb calcium properly and keeps bones healthy and strong. Remember to slather on the sunscreen, though!

For the purposes of this family health challenge blog, we’re going to challenge you to create a fruit, vegetable, or flower garden. This type of garden comes with an extra set of family health benefits — particularly for those picky eaters in your life.

Any parent can tell you that it’s sometimes challenging to get little ones to try new types of produce. But they’ll be more likely to try new fruits and veggies if they’re involved in producing them from start to finish. It’s an adventure they’ll want to participate in!

Tips for starting a garden

OK, so now that we’ve sold you on the family health benefits of gardening, what do you need to do to get started?

Here are a few tips:

  1. Choose a spot for your garden. If you’re planting fruits and veggies, you want to select a spot in your yard that’s exposed to the sun. Veggies in particular need at least six hours of direct sunlight per day — but more is better in terms of producing a good crop. You’ll also want to choose a location for your garden that’s not in an area that floods easily, and you want the spot to have good, soft soil.
  2. Choose what you’d like to plant. This will be dependent on when you start up your garden. Information about what’s seasonally appropriate can be found online, and the ideal time to plant is also often identified on the back of a seed packet.
  3. Think about incorporating some fun. This will depend on the season you’re planting, but your kids may be delighted to plant a “pizza” garden, containing tomatoes, onions, peppers and herbs that go on a pizza. Or you could create a “salsa” or “taco” garden, with tomatoes, onion, garlic, peppers and cilantro. This will truly have them invested in what you’re planting, since the foods will be ingredients for a culinary delight! Looking for an idea for a fruit garden? Plant a “smoothie” garden with the berries of your choice. If you’re interested in growing flowers, you could plant a pollinator garden to bring butterflies and bees to the yard or grow a cut flower garden and create your own custom bouquets all season long.
  4. Involve the whole family in taking care of the garden. There are age-appropriate gardening tasks for almost every member of the family, from helping cultivate the soil, pulling the weeds and planting the seeds to watering the plants just the right amount. Head outdoors often as a family to visit your garden — maybe make it a standing appointment for some family fun.
  5. Add in a little education. There are a ton of ideas for getting your entire family interested and excited about gardening, believe it or not. And you can even make it a little educational as you learn about fruits and veggies, the growth cycle, nature and other factors.

Children’s Hospital at Erlanger is open and ready to serve you and your family. For parents interested in keeping your children well while staying home, we have expanded our telemedicine services. Talk with your child’s doctor about telemedicine options. Don’t have a doctor? Find one here.