Wednesday 30 August 2017

How Can a Polytunnel Encourage Your Child to Eat Healthily

It is a common and concerning problem: tea time tantrums. From hissy fits when peas are on the plate to refusing to eat anything red, children, as they grow and develop, have all kinds of food fads.

* Collaborative post

As parents, it is our responsibility to ensure that they eat a balanced diet that supports and nurtures what can sometimes be rapid growth, physically and emotionally. But if you precious poppet won’t eat peas or leafy greens, won’t touch carrots or entertain anything that resembles a fruit, what can you do.

You need to get creative. And that means getting down and dirty in the garden. The answer to your faddy eater may lay in domestic polytunnels or within the flower borders of your garden.
So, roll up your sleeves, and get planting – but, more importantly, get the kids involved!

Plant and Grow Your Own Food

Sounds too messy and time-consuming? Or maybe you are no gardener and therefore, have no clue what makes a parsnip grow big and flavoursome? Or maybe you just don’t have the space in the garden?

The good news is, there are solutions...

#1 Start Small

To grow your own fruit and veg, you do not need to be blessed with either acres of arable land nor an allotment. A container or builders bag will do, a hessian sack will also suffice or even a few small plant pots on the kitchen window will also do the trick.

In fact, if you are new to gardening, then starting small is the best way to get going. You will need a few basics, however. As well as a suitable growing container, you will need:

·    Peat-free (or nearly peat-free) compost – just read the bag, it will tell you if it suitable for vegetables and fruit

·    Plant food – again, read the label as some are more suitable than others. As vegetables and fruits grow, they are turning their seeds into something edible and that takes a lot of energy (a bit like you running a marathon!)

If you are growing tall plants, you will something to help support the climbing tendrils (or let them grow width ways). You will need a watering container – water cans are a few pounds or an old, plastic jug will do.

#2 Start Simple

Some plants are more complicated to grow as in they need more action and energy on your part to nurture them along, whereas others are a case of plant the seed and forget about it.

Preferably, you need a couple of different plants that have different growth rates. Ones that sprout or pop their head above the soil within days bring about satisfaction quickly, whilst others take a little longer to unfurl from their shell and grow into monster veg and fruit.

For a cheat start, why not buy ready grown young plants from a local garden centre? Or if you have a friend or relative that is green fingered, maybe they will start a few plants off for you.

Salad leaves pop in days and some varieties are cut and come again, or introduce children to the tastiness of herbs. There are many veggies and fruits that are great for kids to grow and for beginners too.  

#3 Start with Veg or Fruit They Do Like

There is nothing worse than watching a child heave as they eat something they don’t like, all in the name of a balanced diet. Growing their own veg and fruit is a great way of reintroducing them to vegetables and fruits, often seen by children as their nemesis.

Don’t forget that children’s taste buds are more sensitive to ours to tomatoes can be too acidic to their taste buds or broccoli too bitter. However, if they have at least one or two favourite veggies or fruits, you could start with those.

You could also explain that fruit and vegetables that have travelled, usually encased in plastic and in the back of a refrigerated truck, loose some of the wholesome flavours and that sitting next to a vegetable plant, eating its spoils directly from the vine or plant means that they taste very different indeed – much more pleasant!

And don’t forget, fruit and vegetables don’t always have to be cooked…

#4 Make it Fun

Why not take photos of your vegetable plants week on week? This way, you can see how much they have grown and changed. Making the project fun is the ideal way to capture a child’s attention and give them a sense of satisfaction too.

But here’s the thing: there is no guarantee that growing your own will turn your kids into avid vegetable or fruit eaters. But it may in the future…

First Tunnels have years of gardening wisdom that they pass on to gardeners, young and old alike. They, like many long-term gardeners, have long known the power of growing your own. Try it!

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