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Learnings from the Kitchen Garden

May 02, 2017 | Joy of learning

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By Rachna Singh

“MAAAA….. I’m bored.”

Oh dear Lord!!! She’s bored. AGAIN!!!

And thus began the holidays for my five-year-old Eesha – a sack full of untapped energy who needs to be positively and constructively challenged every waking hour.

Ignoring her, I went about tending to my plants lovingly.

“Can I do that please?” Eesha asked and I indulged her. This set the Sumerian wheel of gardening on the roll. In went the whole jug of water in a single plant and water spilled all over the place. It was time for her first lesson: water conservation – how to use water, a scarce natural resource, without wasting it.

When Eesha accidentally plucked out few healthy saplings along with the weeds, I told her about deforestation and imbalances in our ecological system. She absorbed all this new information, not at all deterred by the big words I was throwing at her.

An organic fertilizer made of egg shells, vegetable and fruit peels was our next project. She learned about recycling, and how using compost for fertilizer was cost-effective. I made a passing reference to soil pollution and how our fertilizer was more eco-friendly. She was struck by the term “eco-friendly”.

“Ma, I think I‘ll call my next doll ‘Eco-friendly’.”

Now that made me smile!

In some mason jars, we put layers of colored pebbles and compost-mixed soil, and then we planted cacti plants with tiny red and yellow flowers. Eesha, forever the artist, wrapped a dainty little green ribbon around the bottle. And so our lovely glass garden terrarium was born.

As I was snipping away some mint leaves for my tea, I was tempted to start an herb garden, and I mentioned this with Eesha. Jubilant at the idea, she joined me in painting and decorating the cans. We personalized it with ladyfinger imprint patterns. Basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, alfalfa sprouts, cherry tomatoes and oriental capsicum all found a little can of their own. In the process, Eesha learnt the names and spellings of different herbs and understood the difference between herbs, fruits and vegetables. I also helped her understand the nutritional benefits of eating  fresh produce of different colors.

But would she have the patience to wait? I was in for an unexpected surprise. For the next two months, Eesha meticulously and lovingly looked after her plants. A few times, I also caught her with spray bottle in hand talking sweet nothings to her baby plants.

In August, my baby’s birthday month, our herb garden was in full bloom – and what a sight! In a moment of pure genius, Eesha suggested a gardening themed birthday party. I sure was impressed! Off we went to the market to collect our supplies.

At her birthday party each kid was handed a clean empty can to decorate and plant herbs of their choice. Once they were done it was time to make their own vegetable pizzas. Oh, the excitement of trimming fresh herbs and scattering them over their pizzas! We topped them further with colorful cherry tomatoes and capsicums – everything from our kitchen garden. The kids polished off the pizzas in minutes.

I was amazed at how an activity intended to keep my kid busy over the holidays had reaped such rewards. I saw a more patient, knowledgeable, responsible and happy kid running around the house.

That night, as she hugged me and said that this was her best birthday ever, I couldn’t help beaming and hugging her back. I knew she really meant it.

Have you done something recently with your child which has reaped unexpected rewards? Do tell.

 

Rachna Singh is a Singapore-based mother of two daughters who are like chalk and cheese. She is a collector, writer, gardener, mother, friend, and force of nature – picking up each new thing in life with such enthusiasm and energy that she is a constant source of  inspiration to everyone around her.

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