9 Ways to Make Your Visit to a Local Farm Great

9 Ways to Make Your Visit to a Local Farm Great. Visiting a local farm with kids? Be sure to prepare beforehand! (Photo: Woman and child from the back walking along a dirt road next to flowers.)

My toddler eyed the cow warily. What was this creature? Sure, it said moo, but this was so much larger than he expected! Seeing him back away, we didn’t push it. We knew he would have plenty of other opportunities to visit a local farm or two along the way.

Visiting a local farm is a great way to connect kids with their food, especially if you don’t have the ability to garden. They get to see how fruits and vegetables grow and experience real, live animals. That helps them appreciate the hard work of the people who grow their food and put more thought to where it comes from.

Plus, it’s really fun. Some of my favorite childhood memories are of picking giant blueberries and slurping strawberry smoothies at a local farm near our house.

We’re particularly fortunate because our county actually has a large agricultural reserve set aside just for farming. Since that incident, we’ve visited many farms. Here’s what we’ve learned in the process:

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Guest Post for the Washington Post (!): How gardening can help build healthier, happier kids

I love gardening so much that I nicknamed my kid after a plant. (No, Sprout is not his real name. Yes, I’ve had people ask me that.) So of course, it was natural for me to continue it when I had kids. And like all things that I both like and are good for sustainability, I love to write about it!

So I was thrilled to bits when the Washington Post accepted my piece on the science of why you should garden with your kids. As I researched the article, even I learned a lot about the benefits of getting outside, having a healthy relationship with germs, and eating fruits and vegetables.

Here are the first few paragraphs:

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When our cherry tomatoes blush red each summer, my son eagerly plucks them from the vine and pops them in his mouth. He points at random plants and proudly declares, “That one’s mine!” And occasionally, he yells in panic as the hose from the rain barrel overflows his tiny watering can.

Admittedly, gardening with kids isn’t always idyllic.

But even when it’s chaotic, it can be tremendously beneficial.

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Read more of How Gardening Can Help Build Happier, Healthier Kids over at the Washington Post’s On Parenting section!

New Green Parenting Facebook Group and Contest!

Green and Sustainable Parenting. Green Parenting Facebook Group. (Photo: Left side, child digging in a box of dirt, middle: trees, right: Children marching with a sign saying 'We march for our wild and wonderful world' on the back."

Are you a green parent or want to be one? I’ve launched a Green Parenting Facebook group just for you! Okay, not just for you, but for you and other folks like you.

The Green and Sustainable Parenting community is a group of parents and caregivers who are trying to live environmentally and socially sustainable lives. To build a clean and healthy environment for all kids, we engage in everything from lifestyle changes to political activism. We’ll be sharing thought-provoking articles, challenges, and lessons learned.

To kick it off, I’m running a contest! I’m giving away a copy of the new book Dirt is Good, about the importance of kids getting exposure to the outdoors and germs. I recently interviewed the author and his publicist sent me a copy. Head over to the Green and Sustainable Parenting Facebook group to find out more.

Here’s What We Should Do About Phthalates in Mac and Cheese Instead of Food Shaming Parents

What We Should Do About Phthalates in Mac and Cheese. (Photo: Rows of boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese on a shelf.)

Photo courtesy of Mike Mozart on Flickr.

“So now we can’t eat mac and cheese. Is there anything we can feed our kids?!” That was the cry heard across the land from moms and dads who read the Scary Mommy or New York Times articles on phthalates in mac and cheese.  Both of the articles are based on a report put out by a coalition of environmental groups concerned about toxic chemicals in processed food. (If you want to be super data-geeky, here’s the actual data.)

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How We Built a Raised Bed Children’s Garden

How We Built a Raised Bed Children's Garden for Our Young Kids. Want your kids to have somewhere to dig and plant flowers? Here's how we build a raised bed to accommodate them. (Photo: Boy with a giant shovel digging in a large wooden box.)

As a child, I’d spend hours in my backyard poking around in the dirt. I’d pretend specific plants were magical and “mix” up concoctions. I could be alone with my imagination, whether under the giant pine tree or next to my mom’s garden bed.

But our yard doesn’t offer the same experience for our kids. It’s on a corner heavy with foot traffic and no clear place for them to play in the dirt. So I wanted to make them one – somewhere that was set-aside, just for them. After more than a year of planning – raising a new baby took a higher priority – we finally started building it this spring.

The children’s garden isn’t anything complicated. While there are some amazing outdoor play spaces on Pinterest, we had neither the space or need for anything that elaborate. We just wanted to build something that could hold some dirt. It’s really just a box. Or in fancy garden terms, a raised bed children’s garden.

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A Call to Action for Parents on Climate Change

A Call to Action for Parents on Climate Change; Photo: Painting of the Lorax in front of the White House

As I scrolled through Facebook the day President Trump announced America was leaving the Paris accords to address climate change, I couldn’t do anything but sigh and shake my head. As a long time climate change activist, I increasingly identify with the climate scientists sinking into despair the same way the West Antarctic ice sheet is. As there was nothing else I could do, I posted a screenshot of the Weather Channel that made me laugh. That evening, I stood out on my back deck, stared at the stars, and wondered what the hell we’re doing to our children’s future.

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The Truth about Gardening with Kids

The Truth about Gardening with Kids - yes, all of these things will happen! (Photo: Pepper plant in garden surrounded by straw)

“Nononono,” I cry, sprinting over to Little Bird. He looks up, one dirty, guilty hand still at his mouth. His lips are lined with bits of dark brown. I looked down for just a moment to plant a pepper seedling. In that short period, he crawled over to the garden fence, stuck his hand in, and shoved a chunk of dirt right in his face. I sigh, wipe him off with the back of my hand, and rest him on my hip. Gardening with kids isn’t for the faint of heart. If you garden with young kids, all of these things will happen at some point:

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How to Introduce Kids to Political Activism

Text: "How to Introduce Kids to Political Activism / We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So" Photo: Two children from the back, one that has a sign on her back that says "We March for Our Wild and Wonderful World"

“Mommy is going to let the people in charge know that we need to respect all people,” I told my son on the morning of the Women’s March. While I’ve been politically active for a long time, he never really knew about it. Because I so rarely miss weekend time with the kids, I wanted to let him know what I was doing and why it was important. As I and two of friends gathered snacks and pinned posters on our jackets, seeing my kids reminded me why we were doing this in the first place.

Explaining what’s going on is even more important if you’re bringing your kids along to a political event. In the case of the People’s Climate March, I knew that I had a responsibility to explain to Sprout why he was there.

From explaining why I’ve missed dinner to testify to our City Council to marching down Pennsylvania Avenue, here’s what I’ve learned about introducing kids to activism:

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The “Earth March”: Bringing My Kids to the People’s Climate March

Text: "Bringing My Kids to the People's Climate March / We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So" Photo: Young boy in a teal hat holding up a sign that says

So proud of my munchkin.

“You’re not going to bring the kids to homeless shelters are you?” asked my husband, several years before we had kids. “Probably. We need to teach them how to help people.” He most likely rolled his eyes. But now after being married to me for a decade and living in the Age of Trump, he understands. Which is why all four of us were out in the sweaty heat this past Saturday walking in the Washington D.C. People’s Climate March.

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