By Jillian Rivers.

Rhiannon foraging the summer garden.

Sometimes all a mother wants for her children is to eat their darn greens. Some moms, more than others, struggle to make this a reality. It is the one universal feeling upon which generations of maternal women can all agree. We strive to get our kids to thrive off greens and have the desire to eat them. But sometimes the little rascals just won’t budge.

Through my personal motherhood endeavors, I’ve discovered playing with your food makes a world of difference to their diet. Letting your child get their hands in the dirt; throwing seeds in the soil and grow something, invokes their curiosity in vegetables and plant life. Children’s food preferences will ebb-and-flow, especially during their picky toddler years. This is a crucial time to start exploring the garden with them, tasting, seeing, and touching plants they’re unfamiliar with. I guarantee that curiosity will spark them to try something new–with guidance of course.

A fun seasonal activity my daughter partakes in is exploring our yard and making her own “feast” by incorporating various natural treasures––vegetables mixed with shells, rocks, acorns, flowers––anything she can find outside. One might call it experimenting, I call it childhood gastronomy! She then makes tiny “chef-inspired” dishes for her critter friends outside. We live on a beach bluff so this may include rabbits, squirrels, turkeys, various birds, and even a garden gnome. She will leave her creations out on the front porch in hopes they will get eaten.


Our small garden isn’t perfect, and sometimes we let it run wild, unweeded, especially during the end of summer. But it is perfect for us, in the lessons and exploration it provides for my child and me. It keeps us close to what mother earth provides for us, and the responsibility to be more environmentally sustainable and aware of what we put in our bodies. My child now knows how cherry tomatoes are grown and the pleasure of picking one off the vine and eating it at peak ripeness. This simple knowledge keeps children (as well as their caretakers) grounded and whole.

Back to the eating greens part…I advise parents to keep putting them on the plate. Let the kids know they are there for picking. Let’s face it, even as an avid vegetable eater, I don’t always feel like eating greens either. But I am more apt to pick at them if they are on my plate in the first place. The same goes for children. The more the greens make an appearance, the better. And if all else fails, ninja-vegetable those kiddos. Hide them in soups, sauces, smoothies, and cheese quesadillas. Get creative with it! They will learn to love them over time, it just may take an extra bit of trickery motherly love.